Civil rights lead­ers slam court’s de­ci­sion on voter sup­pres­sion

Wisconsin Gazette - - Opinion - Com­piled by Lisa Neff Staff writer

The U.S. Supreme Court June 11 dealt a blow to the fight against voter sup­pres­sion in a 5-4 rul­ing up­hold­ing Ohio’s ag­gres­sive prac­tice of purg­ing vot­ers who didn’t vote and re-reg­is­ter.

The case — Husted v. A. Philip Ran­dolph In­sti­tute, et al. — was a chal­lenge to one of the prac­tices that Ohio uses for re­mov­ing vot­ers from its reg­is­tra­tion lists: Elec­tion boards mail no­tices to reg­is­tered vot­ers who have not voted in two years, ask­ing them to con­firm that they are still el­i­gi­ble to vote. If a voter fails to re­turn the no­tice, the voter’s reg­is­tra­tion is can­celled.

Vanita Gupta, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Lead­er­ship Con­fer­ence on Civil and Hu­man Rights, is­sued the fol­low­ing state­ment on the Supreme Court’s de­ci­sion:

“Five jus­tices on the Supreme Court to­day un­der­mined the fun­da­men­tal right to vote by mak­ing it eas­ier for states to sup­press the vote. The Na­tional Voter Reg­is­tra­tion Act of 1993 re­quires states to main­tain ac­cu­rate voter rolls but also to en­sure that vot­ers are not im­prop­erly purged.

“Un­til the cur­rent pres­i­den­tial ad­min­is­tra­tion, three dif­fer­ent ad­min­is­tra­tions from both po­lit­i­cal par­ties en­forced the law by fight­ing ef­forts to re­move vot­ers if they chose not to vote. Vot­ing has never been a ‘use it or lose it’ right.

“To­day’s de­ci­sion con­tra­dicts the text and pur­pose of the NVRA, and, as Jus­tice So­tomayor noted in her dis­sent, ‘en­tirely ig­nores the his­tory of voter sup­pres­sion against which the NVRA was en­acted.’ This de­ci­sion will al­low states to ob­struct count­less el­i­gi­ble vot­ers from par­tic­i­pat­ing in our coun­try’s elec­toral sys­tem and may en­cour­age other states to fol­low suit with re­stric­tive vot­ing prac­tices. Congress must act now to over­turn this de­ci­sion so that this type of voter purg­ing is pro­hib­ited. We should make it eas­ier, not more dif­fi­cult, for cit­i­zens to ex­er­cise their right to vote.”

More re­ac­tion…

Kris­ten Clarke, pres­i­dent and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Lawyers’ Com­mit­tee for Civil Rights Un­der Law:

“The Court’s 5-4 rul­ing ig­nores the long and dis­crim­i­na­tory his­tory of purge pro­grams in our coun­try, which have been re­peat­edly used at the state and lo­cal lev­els to un­fairly and dis­pro­por­tion­ately tar­get mi­nor­ity vot­ers. As Jus­tice So­tomayor aptly ob­serves, to­day’s de­ci­sion forces mi­nor­ity com­mu­ni­ties to be ‘even more proac­tive and vig­i­lant in hold­ing their states ac­count­able and work­ing to dis­man­tle the ob­sta­cles they face in ex­er­cis­ing the fun­da­men­tal right to vote.’”

Mor­ris Pearl of Pa­tri­otic Mil­lion­aires:

“To­day’s de­ci­sion by the Supreme Court is not just a mis­take, it is the lat­est blow in a war over the fate of our democ­racy. On one side, the peo­ple. On the other, the con­ser­va­tive of­fi­cials and wealthy oli­garchs who want more money in pol­i­tics and less vot­ing. This de­ci­sion does not make our elec­tions safer or fairer, it just makes it harder for law­mak­ers to be held ac­count­able by their con­stituents. At a time when pub­lic trust in gov­ern­ment has never been lower, we need to make it eas­ier, not harder, for peo­ple to vote.”

Karen Hobert Flynn, pres­i­dent of Com­mon Cause:

“Ev­ery Amer­i­can de­serves the chance to make their voice heard in our elec­tions with­out fear of elec­tion of­fi­cials tar­get­ing them be­cause of their vot­ing his­tory. Re­gard­less of how the Court dressed up to­day’s rul­ing, the nar­row ma­jor­ity just took an­other hos­tile step against the right to vote. The laws in most states are more pro­tec­tive of in­fre­quent vot­ers than the one the Court ap­proved in Ohio. Still, many par­ti­san of­fi­cials are doubt­less al­ready study­ing this de­ci­sion as a blueprint for dis­en­fran­chis­ing po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents. And we are pre­pared to fight back against fur­ther ero­sions to the right to vote.”

John C. Yang, pres­i­dent and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Asian Amer­i­cans Ad­vanc­ing Jus­tice/AAJC:

“This de­ci­sion is ex­tremely dis­ap­point­ing. To­day the Supreme Court sanc­tioned voter-sup­pres­sion ef­forts that dis­pro­por­tion­ately harm our com­mu­ni­ties. But we will con­tinue to fight against dis­crim­i­na­tory prac­tices that try to keep Asian Amer­i­cans and Pa­cific Is­landers from ex­er­cis­ing their right for ac­cess to the bal­lot box.”

Ar­turo Var­gas, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Latino Elected and Ap­pointed Of­fi­cials Ed­u­ca­tional Fund:

“To­day’s de­ci­sion up­hold­ing Ohio’s ag­gres­sive voter-purge process was a loss for our democ­racy. As a na­tion, we should be work­ing to make vot­ing more, not less, ac­ces­si­ble to the na­tion’s sec­ond largest pop­u­la­tion group, and to all qual­i­fied U.S. cit­i­zens.”

Juan Carta­gena, pres­i­dent and gen­eral coun­sel of Lati­noJus­tice PRLDEF:

“At a time when much of the coun­try doubts the ef­fi­cacy of gov­ern­ment, we must in­sist on meth­ods that in­crease voter par­tic­i­pa­tion and civic en­gage­ment. To­day’s de­ci­sion in Husted does the op­po­site. The main goal of the Na­tional Voter Reg­is­tra­tion Act — which placed an af­fir­ma­tive obli­ga­tion on gov­ern­ment to reg­is­ter vot­ers for the first time in our his­tory — is to in­crease the fran­chise. We stand with our col­leagues who are ready to stop any other state from il­le­gally cancelling out Latino vot­ing strength.”

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