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Blocking Access to the Ballot


In one of the many horrible decisions of what might be the most reactionary Supreme Court term since the New Deal, a bare, consistently anti-voting-rights partisan Supreme Court majority upheld an extreme voter purge law in Ohio as being consistent with a federal law. A new study indicates how important and how bad the effects of this will be:

Ahead of upcoming midterm elections, a new Brennan Center investigation has examined data for more than 6,600 jurisdictions that report purge rates to the Election Assistance Commission and calculated purge rates for 49 states.

We found that between 2014 and 2016, states removed almost 16 million voters from the rolls, and every state in the country can and should do more to protect voters from improper purges.

Almost 4 million more names were purged from the rolls between 2014 and 2016 than between 2006 and 2008.3 This growth in the number of removed voters represented an increase of 33 percent — far outstripping growth in both total registered voters (18 percent) and total popula- tion (6 percent).

Most disturbingly, our research suggests great cause for concern that the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder (which ended federal “preclearance,” a Voting Rights Act provision that was enacted to apply extra scrutiny to jurisdictions with a history of racial dis- crimination) has had a profound and negative impact:

For the two election cycles between 2012 and 2016, jurisdictions no longer subject to federal preclearance had purge rates significantly higher than jurisdictions that did not have it in 2013. The Brennan Center calculates that 2 million fewer voters would have been purged over those four years if jurisdictions previously subject to federal preclearance had purged at the same rate as those jurisdictions not subject to that provision in 2013.

The other key takeaway here is that the Roberts Court’s vote suppression decisions cannot be viewed in isolation, but as a whole. The complete gutting of the Voting Rights Act — striking down Section 4 and making Sections 2 and 3 effectively unenforceable — and refusal to intervene against even the most egregious partisan gerrymandering makes acts in combination with a narrow reading of the NVRA to produce anti-democratic results.

And also remember that George W. Bush — who nominated the author of Shelby County and another equally extreme opponent of voting rights — became president in substantial measure because of his brother’s racist voter purges. The great neoconfederate circle of life!

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