The U.S. Supreme Court began hearing arguments this week on a crucial case, Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, in which more than 500,000 Ohio voters were purged from voter rolls for infrequent voting. Many of the voters affected were seniors, students, and veterans.
Voters were removed for not voting in recent elections even though federal law protects voters from being removed for this reason. Voting is a federally protected right – not a "use it or lose it" privilege that can be arbitrarily stripped away.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted is attempting to shrink the power of the grassroots to advocate on issues that matter in their community – from local policies to holding elected leaders accountable. The A. Philip Randolph Institute, an AFL-CIO labor group advocating for social, labor, and economic change, says that Ohio's voter purging violates the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and the Help America Vote Act of 2002.
Approximately 50 million eligible citizens are not registered to vote in the U.S. And millions of voters could be targets of purging because they are infrequent voters, in many cases due to military service, illness, work, or school.
"You have a right not to vote," Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor pointed out in the oral arguments. "[This policy] results in disenfranchising disproportionately certain cities where large groups of minorities live, where large groups of homeless people live, and across the country they're the group that votes the least, in—in large measure because many of them work very long hours. There's a strong argument this is, at least in impact, discriminatory."