The Transylvania Times -

Denying The Right To Vote


June 25, 2018

A decision made earlier this month by the U.S. Supreme Court could, in the future, deny hundreds of thousands of registered voters the right to vote.

By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute that the state of Ohio was within its right to purge voters who did not vote in one federal election and did not return a confirmation card sent to them from the board of elections.

The case involved Larry Harmon, a Navy veteran and software engineer who voted in the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections. However, he did not vote in the 2010 mid-term election. In 2011, the state sent him a notice asking him to confirm his eligibility as a voter. Harmon said he never recalled receiving such a notice. Harmon also did not vote in the 2012 presidential election because he did not like either candidate. In 2015 when Harmon went to vote in opposition to a measure to legalize marijuana, he could not vote because his name had been taken off the voting rolls.

The Ohio law allows voters to be purged from the rolls after not voting in consecutive federal elections. But millions of Americans do not vote in consecutive federal elections. In 2012, only 54.2 percent of registered voters cast a ballot. In the non-presidential federal elections of 2014, voter turnout nationwide was just 36.3 percent. In 2010, it was 39.3 percent. In the two mid-term federal elections, Harmon acted as the majority of registered voters – he did not vote. And in 2012, he was part of 45.8 percent of registered voters who did not vote.

Harmon’s decision not to vote should not have played a role in his removal from the election rolls. Federal law prohibits removing a voter from the voting rolls “by reason of the person’s failure to vote.” Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, said Ohio removed voters “only if they have failed to vote and have failed to respond to a notice.” But the first half of Alito’s’ justification violates federal law, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit correctly argued that the failure to vote “triggered” the sending of the one notice.

A salient point is that Harmon was sent his one confirmation notice after missing just one federal election, the mid-term election of 2010. Thus, Ohio began taking steps to remove Harmon from the voter rolls after just one federal election, not two consecutive elections.

As pointed out by Justice Stephen Breyer in the dissent, Ohio sent out a disproportionate number of confirmation notices. Statistically, only 4 percent of Americans move outside of their county each year. But in 2012, Ohio sent out 1.5 million confirmation notices to roughly 20 percent of the state’s voters. Logically, 4 percent of those notices were returned to indicate that the voters had indeed moved to another county. Another 235,000 were returned stating that the voter had not moved.

“In the end, however, there were more than one million notices – the vast majority of notices sent – to which Ohio received no return card at all,” wrote Breyer.

There are dozens of reasons more than a million Ohioans did not respond to the notice they were sent. Mail is incorrectly delivered. In 2014, the U.S. Postal Services Mail Recovery Center, where all undeliverable or lost mail goes, received 88 million items. Most probably, the notices were tossed in the trash because they were not expected, resembled junk mail or were amongst fliers and circulars.

There is so much junk mail that people frequently toss out notices and mail of importance. That is why many doctors and dentists not only send a written notice to confirm an appointment but also call to confirm an appointment. That is why many businesses send two, three or four follow-up letters when they receive no response from the initial letter.

To expect all registered voters to respond to one unexpected piece of mail is simply preposterous.

A state should take excessive precautions to ensure that people’s rights are not denied. Ohio clearly has not done that. Instead, it has used a most unreliable method to cull voters.

Harmon should have been allowed to vote in the 2015 election. He was denied his right to vote because he did not return one notice that he never recalls having received. That the Supreme Court approved the denial of the right to vote because a person did not return one piece of mail should be of grave concern to all Americans.


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