As Ohio goes, so goes the nation. That’s what the old cliché tells us. And it tells us that for pretty good reason: since 1896, Ohio has voted for the winner of the Presidential election in every election cycle but two. But now that saying may be about to take on new meaning, as the U.S. Supreme Court is about to hear oral arguments in a voting rights case out of Ohio that could affect how elections are conducted all around the country.
This is an update on a case I first told you about over the summer: Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute. Back in July, I wrote a 2-part post, called Please Don’t Go (Parts 1 & 2). After speculation earlier in the summer that Justice Anthony Kennedy might be about to retire from the Court, we had learned that he’d likely be staying on for at least the next (now current) Court term. While it seems that just about every major case these days turns on the vote of Justice Kennedy, there were two cases coming up this term that I wanted to highlight as especially crucial for Democrats/Progressives, and really for anyone who’s concerned about the health of our democracy. In that 2-part post, I posited that having Kennedy remain on the Court was essential for giving us at least a hope of prevailing in those two cases.
Part 1 of that post was about a partisan gerrymandering case out of Wisconsin called Gill v Whitford. The Court heard arguments in that case in October. In Part 2 of that post, I covered the Ohio case that I’m updating now. The case has to do with a fight over how the Ohio Secretary of State (SOS) has been “purging” voters from the state’s voter rolls. In short, the Plaintiffs in the case argue that SOS Husted has been removing voters’ names from the list if they fail to vote in one election cycle. It is illegal under federal law to remove voters from voter rolls solely based on a failure to vote. The federal Appeals court ruled in favor of the Plaintiffs. Husted appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Court accepted the case.
For a slightly more detailed explanation of the case, please see the aforementioned post, Please Don’t Go – Part 2. More importantly, that post also discusses why this case is so significant for voting rights in Ohio, and potentially for the rest of the country. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read that post, because I think this is one of the most vital issues Democrats/Progressives need to grapple with, and unfortunately it’s one of the most undercovered in the mainstream media (as I noted in the original post, there are plenty of journalists that do great work on the subject, but unfortunately the topic rarely gets headline attention or much tv coverage).
Anyhow, the reason I’m directing your attention back to the topic now is that the Supreme Court is finally about to hear the case. Oral arguments will be held before the Court on January 10, 2018.
And, one additional bit of new information since my original post on the topic is that we’ve gotten a bit of insight into one of the Plaintiffs. It’s pretty interesting to read the tale of the individual Plantiff in the case (there are 2 group Plaintiffs and one individual) and see just how easy it is for one’s name to fall off the voter rolls. Here’s a recent story by a local Ohio radio station about the Plaintiff, Larry Harmon:
“I thought I’ve been a good citizen of Ohio,” he says. “I pay my taxes, I pay property taxes, I pay income taxes, I pay car-registration taxes. I get my driver’s license renewed. So I thought, ‘Geez I’m in good standing.’ And that it would be only normal to not vote sometimes.”
In 2015, he found out differently . . .
Harmon went to vote but couldn’t find his name in the polling book. He had to get to work at Youngstown, but fired off an email to the county Board of Elections at lunchtime. He was told he’d been purged and that he could re-register, which he did. That missed election grated on him, though.
“When was at the school trying to find my name, I was embarrassed,” Harmon says. “I thought, ‘What did I do wrong?’ And then I found out they had just dropped me off, and then I got angry.”
And once again, if you’d like to read the original post on this case for a fuller picture of its significance, you can find it here.