Democracy Takes Another Hit

On 6/11/18 the United States Supreme Court ruled in a 5 to 4 vote that Ohio can purge a registered voter from the voter rolls if the voter has not voted and does not respond to a notice. Ohio begins the purging process based on the failure to vote in a single federal election cycle. Just think for a moment about how extreme that is. The purging of voter rolls goes hand in hand with other efforts to suppress the vote such as cutbacks on early voting, elimination of same-day registration and voter identification laws. All of these measures have been advocated only by Republicans and passed only by state legislatures controlled by Republicans. It goes without saying that this decision will encourage other states dominated by Republicans to follow Ohio’s lead and enact a similar law.

According to the New York Times, a Reuters study in 2016 found that at least 144,000 people were removed from the voting rolls in Ohio’s 3 largest counties (Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus) and  that voters were struck from the rolls in Democratic-leaning neighborhoods at roughly twice the rate as in Republican neighborhoods.

These voter suppression laws, coupled with partisan gerrymandering, make it very difficult to defeat sitting politicians. It is not a surprise that politicians will say and do anything to stay in office, but it is very discouraging when the United States Supreme Court condones these political tactics.

In dissent, Justice Stephen G. Breyer, quoting a Senate report, said, “The purpose of our election process is not to test the fortitude and determination of the voter, but to discern the will of the majority.” That sounds way too naïve for our times.

We should be doing everything we possibly can to make sure people do vote rather than suppressing the vote. For example, Australia has a law that makes voting mandatory and they make it easy to vote. One of the easiest things we could do is to change election day to a Saturday. Just imagine how many people don’t vote because they work from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, have busy family lives, and many other weekday obligations. It seems we’re headed in the wrong direction with the wrong motives if the goal is democracy.  

Photo Credit: Lisa Johnson