The National Voter Registration Act, the federal law under which Ohio's statute was challenged, is designed to protect voters against unreasonable voter purges. Also known as "motor voter," this set of federal protections remains the law of the land, and includes key safeguards that states must continue to follow.
While the court wasn't persuaded by the argument that Ohio's rules broke federal law, the majority opinion also made it clear that states do need to follow the protections to voters guaranteed under federal law when they think a voter has moved, including sending a mailer, then waiting two federal election cycles before removing someone from a registration list.
Our fear is this aspect of the ruling will be ignored by zealots in the "voter fraud" fantasy realm, who will decide to use the Husted decision to justify more draconian purges around the country. That would be an inaccurate reading of Monday's decision, and we'll be ready to stand up for voters if they try.
Take what happened last week in Indiana, where a judge blocked
the state's purge law before it could go into effect. In that case, we filed
a lawsuit on behalf of the Indiana chapters of the NAACP and League of Women Voters, arguing
that the Hoosier State was improperly using a multistate voter database system called Crosscheck -- which is championed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (chairman of Trump's defunct voter fraud commission
and a known proponent of the myth of widespread voter fraud
In theory Crosscheck seems like a fine idea: States come together
to see if there are duplicate names among registration lists. But in reality, the system has bad data and uses inaccurate processes that often generate false positives
. That means Crosscheck might tell you voters have moved out of your state when they haven't. Even so, Indiana altogether eliminated
the mailer and subsequent waiting period for voters that was crucial to the Supreme Court's ruling that Ohio's policy is legal.
The court's decision Monday may have been a win for the state of Ohio -- and perhaps for the Department of Justice, which switched sides after 2016 and backed Ohio. But the Supreme Court also confirmed some real limits against bad purges. And we'll continue to put jurisdictions on notice that Husted is not a green light to purge the rolls with reckless abandon. It is, however, a clarion call that our movement needs to double down on vigilance in the face of voter suppression.
This post is part of the Brennan Center's work to Protect the Vote in the 2018 midterm elections.
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