Sixth Circuit Rules Against Disenfranchisement, Making Ohio Just a Bit Bluer

In an election year that has been mostly depressing and full of bad news, one bright spot has been the number of judicial decisions against voter suppression by Republicans all around the county. The last blow to their antics came in Ohio yesterday:

he Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals today reversed an earlier ruling that shot down a lawsuit against Secretary of State Jon Husted. The target of the lawsuit: Husted’s process of eliminating the names of registered voters from the state’s voter rolls. It’s a process called “purging,” and it’s meant to clean up state databases and delete the names of voters who have moved out of the state or died. It also leaves the door open to negligence and political machinations…

Today’s ruling sides with the plaintiffs who brought the case against Husted and originally sought an end to this purging practice. The lawsuit will likely head to the U.S. Supreme Court now.

Husted has been scrubbing the names of tens or even hundreds of thousands of people from the voter rolls who haven’t engaged in “voter activity” for the last six years, even if there’s no evidence the person moved or was deceased.  That’s more stringent than in most other states, and the court wisely decided against him.  While six years does seem like a long time for a voter to be inactive, there are many people who only vote every four years at best, and may for one reason or another have missed the 2012 election. And, of course, those people tend to be poorer and more Democratic-leaning.

With the Sixth Circuit’s decision to side with the plaintiffs, Husted will almost certainly be forced to stop the purge. The Supreme Court, split evenly at 4-4 as it is, is unlikely to side with the GOP on this one, so Ohio gets to stay just a little bit bluer because more people will actually be able to exercise their right to vote.

David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.