By Mia Brett – Last week the Supreme Court dealt a blow to voting rights in Husted v. Philip Randolph Institute. This case addressed one of the many forms of extreme voter suppression that were present in the 2016 election. We talk so much about voter suppression in the 2016 election because it was the first election since a key part of the Voter Rights Act was struck down in 2013 in Shelby v. Holder.
Along with new voter ID laws, gerrymandering, and closing polling places, some states employed voter purges. These voter purges in Ohio were the subject of the Husted case. Husted was a suit that began under the Obama administration arguing that Ohio violated the National Voter Registration Act by purging voters from the rolls because they skipped three consecutive federal elections and failed to return a mailer from the state. The NVRA prohibits any state from removing a voter from the rolls “by reason of the person’s failure to vote.” Initially the 6th circuit court ruled that Ohio’s law did violate the NVRA but the new DOJ challenged that ruling and the Supreme Court upheld Ohio’s law by a 5-4 majority. The DOJ provided no clear reason for the switch to urging the Supreme Court to uphold an Ohio law clearly violating the plain text of a federal law. It’s hard to see any other reasoning than simply wanting to purge voters and make mobilization more difficult and turnout lower. In Ohio Democratic leaning neighborhoods were twice as likely to be purged and low income and minority voters (who often vote for Democrats) were disproportionately targeted.
So what does this mean for midterms and further elections? It means it’s no longer enough to register to vote but you must be vigilant about checking your registration status. Luckily my group, All Women’s Progress Party (AWP), is hosting our 2nd annual Voter Empowerment Day. Voter Empowerment Day is September 25 and it’s a day to celebrate our right to vote while ensuring we’re educated on our rights and have a plan to vote in all 50 states. Thanks to Vote.org you can go to our website and register to vote, get an absentee ballot, find your polling place, sign up for election reminders, and (yes!) check your registration status.
Want to get involved? That’s great! You can visit our website to sign up to have your own Voter Empowerment Day event and we’ll send you a toolkit to help you make your event a success. Even if you don’t want to host an event you can still visit to make sure you’re all set to vote in the upcoming midterms this November! We can combat voter suppression but only if we turn up to vote!
About the author
Mia Brett is a PhD candidate in American legal history and cofounder of All Women’s Progress Party (AWP) a political advocacy organization dedicated to the rights of women and marginalized groups.
You can follow Mia on Twitter.