The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] on Tuesday reversed its position in a key voting rights case [opinion, PDF] that will be before the Supreme Court later this year. The DOJ confirmed its support for an Ohio maintenance tactic used to remove people from the voting rolls by filing an amicus curiae brief [brief, PDF] with the Supreme Court. The Ohio practice involves sending people who have not voted in two years a confirmation notice and removing them from the voter rolls if they fail to respond and do not vote for an additional four years. Previously the DOJ supported the challenge to Ohio’s voter purging tactic, but now believes that it is in compliance with the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) and the 2002 Help America Vote Act [materials]. The DOJ ultimately came to the conclusion that abstaining from voting is sufficient grounds for the state to send out a confirmation notice.
Voting rights, on both the national and state level, have been an issue in the US for decades and voting issues have gone to court in many states in just the past year. In May the Supreme Court agreed to hear [JURIST report] this Ohio voting rights case. Earlier in May the Maine Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that the state’s newly enacted legislation providing for a ranked-choice voting system conflicted with the state’s constitution. In March seven convicted felons filed suit [JURIST report] alleging Florida’s process of restoring voting rights to felons is unconstitutionally arbitrary. Earlier that month a three-judge panel of the US District Court for the Western District of Texas ruled [JURIST report] that the boundaries of three voting districts violated the Voting Rights Act and the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution. Also in March the US Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that Virginia’s redistricting scheme must be examined for racial bias.