As the court enters its final month of its term, the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court will announce decisions on the first day of every work week during June. Last week, we saw decisions announced about abortion and LGBTQ rights. This week, the court announced a decision on a case out of Ohio related to voting rights and voter registration.
Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute
This case was a challenge to one of the practices that the state of 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 does not return that notice, their registration is canceled.
The A. Philip Randolph Institute, a labor and civil rights group, challenged the law claiming that this type of practice violates federal voting laws, which bar states from removing registered voters from their list just because they did not vote. The Court ruled for the state in a narrow 5-4 decision, holding that the process at issue does not violate federal law.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor joined the dissent but also penned her own, focusing on the impact this decision will have on communities of color who have systematically faced voter suppression throughout our country’s history.
Her dissent pointed to evidence about how this de-registration policy disproportionately affects certain communities, citing the fact that black communities in Cincinnati had 10% of their voters removed for being inactive, compared to only about 4% of voters being removed in suburban, white neighborhoods. She also underscored our country’s long history of state sponsored voter suppression, and how because of this history, certain communities face unique challenges being able to vote that this decision simply does not acknowledge.
Sotomayor concluded, “Today’s decision forces these communities and their allies 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.”
When former Attorney General Eric Holder visited Minnesota last month, he stressed the importance of this issue as well, reminding Planned Parenthood supporters that “When elections are rigged through partisan or racial gerrymandering, it intensifies polarization, contributes to gridlock, and deepens the cynicism Americans feel about our government.”
Other Supreme Court decisions that are expected to be handed down this month deal with voting fundamental aspects of how democracy works in this country. One case, Gill v Whitford, comes out of the state of Wisconsin, where voters argued that state assembly districts were unfairly drawn in a “partisan gerrymander.” This means that districts are drawn specifically to be advantageous to increase the representation of politicians who hold a certain partisan ideology. This is the first case that the Supreme Court will hear related to partisan gerrymandering in over a decade, and could have major ramifications for redistricting that will happen in 2020. Watch this blog for updates and analysis.
Democracy relies on all people having equal access to the right to vote. We all must work tirelessly to ensure that everyone has a voice and a vote. If you’re fired up about making sure that those who represent us will stand for our shared values and fight to uphold voting rights that are fundamental for our democracy, take our pledge to vote → resistpersistvote.org