WASHINGTON, DC – Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), issued the following statement Monday regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, holding that the process at issue – failure to vote as the basis for canceling voter registrations – does not violate federal law:
“This decision is a monumental setback for those who care about access to democracy in our country. The Court’s decision could not come at a more important time with the 2018 midterm election season well underway. The Court’s decision send the wrong message to state officials, some of whom will likely interpret this decision as a green light to purge the registration rolls of legitimately registered voters.
“Moreover, 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.’”
The case 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.
The National Voter Registration Act was designed to increase voter registration and turnout rates, specifically in communities of color. In an amicus brief filed in September, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law noted that racial minorities are disproportionately affected under Ohio’s removal process, especially after lower turnout midterm elections. In 2014, 67 percent of registered non-Hispanic whites cast a ballot compared to 63 percent of registered African Americans, 56 percent of Asians or Pacific Islanders, and 53 percent of Latinos.
To report a potentially unlawful voter purge program in your community, call our Election Protecting Hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE. Election Protection – the nation’s largest nonpartisan voter protection coalition led by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – has trained volunteers available to answer questions for voters casting ballots during tomorrow’s primary election day in Maine, Virginia, North Dakota, South Carolina, and Nevada, and throughout the year.