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Changing Position, Justice Department Sides With Ohio Election Officials On Voter Purge

Cave Canem

The U.S. Justice Department has taken an unusual move in reversing its position on a high-profile US.. Supreme Court case involving Ohio’s process for maintaining voter rolls. 

Justice Department attorneys have filed a friend of the court brief, saying Ohio can legally remove voters flagged as inactive or those who have failed to respond to recent mailings.

Mike Brickner with the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio says this is the opposite position of the department in recent years.

“You know, we typically rely on the Department of Justice to expand and protect the right to vote. And this seems to confirm many people’s worst fears that this Department of Justice will instead undermine the right to vote," Brickner says.

Ohio's Secretary of State office planned to remove from voter rolls people who hadn't cast a ballot in six years. Brickner says 7,500 people who voted in Ohio last fall wouldn’t have been able to vote if these restrictions were in place.

Secretary of State Jon Husted has said the case is about maintaining the integrity of elections and without these restrictions, it would be hard for elections officials to properly maintain voter rolls.

After a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down that process, the state was required to allow those removed voters to cast ballots in the 2016 election. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up the case in May.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.