Voting Rights and Democracy

RELEASE: Supreme Court, Once Again, Supports Barriers to the Ballot Box

“Today’s ruling shows once again that the Supreme Court’s five conservatives seem hell-bent on making it as difficult as possible for disadvantaged groups to avail themselves of their right to vote.”

WASHINGTON – On news this morning that the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, et al., Constitutional Accountability Center President Elizabeth Wydra issued the following reaction:

Today’s ruling shows once again that the Supreme Court’s five conservatives seem hell-bent on making it as difficult as possible for disadvantaged groups to avail themselves of their right to vote. From the ruling in Shelby County up through today, the conservative majority repeatedly goes out of its way to misread the clear text of the Constitution and governing statutes to erect barriers to the ballot box, rather than tear them down.

Some people are only occasional voters, for myriad reasons. Congress used its authority under the Constitution’s Elections Clause to prohibit state officials like Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted from targeting such voters for purging. Congress concluded that purging them from the voter rolls was an unjustifiable barrier to their right to vote in federal elections. This conclusion reflected the basic constitutional principle that people may not be stripped of their fundamental rights – including the right to vote – because they do not exercise them. As Justice Sotomayor wrote in a stinging dissent, the Court’s five conservatives ignored the history of voter discrimination that motivated Congress to act in the first place, and “distort[ed] the statutory text to arrive at a conclusion that not only is contrary to the plain language of the [National Voter Registration Act], but also contradicts the essential purposes of the statute, ultimately sanctioning the very purging that Congress expressly sought to protect against.”

Rather than encourage more people in America to vote, today’s ruling will only encourage more states to pass similar laws and aggressively remove people from the voting rolls.

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Resources:

CAC’s amicus brief in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, et al.: https://www.theusconstitution.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Husted_v_Randolph_Institute_Merits_Amicus_Final.pdf

“Don’t purge voters for choosing not to vote,” David H. Gans, Akron Beacon Journal, October 28, 2017: https://www.ohio.com/akron/editorial/commentary/david-gans-dont-purge-voters-for-choosing-not-to-vote

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Now in our tenth year, Constitutional Accountability Center is a think tank, public interest law firm, and action center dedicated to fulfilling the progressive promise of the Constitution’s text and history. Visit the new CAC website at www.theusconstitution.org.

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