The Supreme Court of the United States has decided to hear a case in which the ACLU is challenging Ohio’s decision to purge voter registration records based on whether the registered voter has not voted for a while. The ACLU claims that Ohio has violated federal law guaranteeing fair voter registration practices. Ohio claims that it complied with the law in this case. If the Supreme Court rules against Ohio, it may cause states to hesitate in their efforts to make certain that their voter registration information is correct and up to date.
SCOTUS agrees to hear Ohio voter purge case. Ohio has purged 2 million voters since 2011, more than any other state https://t.co/dOUMJoV7GW
— Ari Berman (@AriBerman) May 30, 2017
Supreme Court To Hear Case On Purging Of Voter Rolls
A federal district court had previously issued an injunction that permitted more than 7,600 registered voters to cast a ballot in Ohio. While this may not have been enough to swing statewide or nationwide voting results, these 7,600 voters could have affected the outcome of some local elections. For this reason, maintaining the integrity of election records is critical for protecting the impact of each vote cast by an eligible voter.
— Democracy NC (@democracync) May 1, 2017
Some of the voters that have been purged by Ohio could have moved or died. When I worked at a polling location in Florida last November, one voter with a sharp eye spotted an error in her son’s voting record. He had moved to another state and the interstate system’s records had not yet updated with the correct information. That might have opened up an opportunity for someone claiming to him to fraudulently cast a vote.
Although liberals often try to claim that voter fraud is not a problem and try to fight efforts to reform the system to ensure integrity, it becomes a problem when someone comes to a polling place to vote and finds out that someone claiming to be him or her has already cast a vote. It becomes a problem when someone casts a vote on behalf of a voter who has died. It becomes a problem if and when voter fraud affects the outcome of local elections. The system should be protected so that all eligible voters have the chance to vote.
Is A Perfectly Secure Yet Convenient System Possible?
Consumers demand both security and convenience. So do voters who usually just want to get to the polling place, cast their votes, and leave in ten minutes or less. Unfortunately, having both perfect security and perfect convenience is almost impossible. Ohio may have acted on the assumption that registered voters who hadn’t voted for a long time may have moved or died, but that was mostly an innocent attempt to ensure that dead voters didn’t cast a ballot.
— NYU Tandon (@nyutandon) November 7, 2016
Some proposed solutions include an entirely digitized Blockchain-based system in which voters have a lightweight app on their Smart Phones that effectively act as their voter IDs. They can just come in, scan a QR code with their phones or insert their photo ID with a magnetized strip loaded with their unique identifier into a slot, and then cast digital tokens as their votes. Their votes are registered at highly secure distant nodes that are difficult to hack, alter or fool without sending up all kinds of red flags that an expert in the system would notice. The whole thing is secured with highly advanced cryptographic algorithms.
If there’s a weakness in a system like this, it’s that voters’ phones might get lost or stolen, or they might decide to replace their phones and forget all about going to the DMV or Supervisor of Elections office to update their voter information. There may be no perfect system, but any voter system reform will have to account for the fact that nobody wants to go through the hanging chad thing again and nobody wants to be told that their vote has already been cast for them.
— Ari Berman (@AriBerman) May 30, 2017
What Voters Can Do
If voters have a question about their registration, they should find out how to contact their county’s supervisor of elections office. They should ideally do these several months before the next election to ensure that they are registered and their information is correct. Voters should do this even if they think they are registered and their information is correct because it’s possible that the state elections office or county supervisor of elections offices may have erroneously purged their voter information. Most states have only a limited window in which voters can update their information or register to vote before an election.
The polling place may be able to update your address on the spot if it is incorrect, but keep in mind that this may change your precinct and your correct polling location. Last November, we had a few people come in with notes from their previous polling place because they had an incorrect address and needed to go from their previous polling place to ours so they could vote. That will be inconvenient for many people who attempt to vote during their lunch break or are otherwise pressed for time on the voting day.
— Ohio Senate GOP (@OhioSenateGOP) December 27, 2016
Another important thing that voters can do is to have their photo ID and voter registration card in hand when they show up at the polling place. This will help to speed up the process of getting a ballot, especially during presidential elections when polling places can be absolutely packed.
It will be interesting to see how the Supreme Court decides to rule in this case in which Ohio’s attempt to purge voter registration rolls. If the Supreme Court rules against Ohio, this may intimidate states that want to make sure that their information is up to date but don’t want to risk a lawsuit. However, voters can make sure they can protect their voting rights by actually showing up to vote and by making sure their information is correct well before they go vote.