When Republicans went to the White House early in Barack Obama’s presidency to negotiate specifics of an economic stimulus bill, Obama reminded them that his policy preferences must prevail because “elections have consequences.”
“At the end of the day, I won,” he told them. “So, I think on that one, I trump you.”
Of course, when he said that, Obama couldn’t possibly have foreseen the 2016 election of President Donald Trump, but seldom has an election been more consequential.
That elections have consequences was further underscored when Trump rightly reversed course on a misinterpretation of a 1993 law by the previous administration. That law, the National Voter Registration Act, reformed the nation’s voter registration process.
Having reversed course, the Justice Department is now siding with Ohio in its legitimate efforts to clean up its voter rolls.
That would not have happened under President Hillary Clinton, so elections do in fact have consequences.
The integrity of elections in Ohio will be significantly enhanced if the Supreme Court this fall upholds, as it should, the process the state uses.
In the appellate court, the Obama administration predictably had sided with Democrats and allied liberal groups seeking to prevent the Buckeye State from removing tens of thousands of voters from the state’s rolls after they were deemed to be “inactive.”
Justice Department lawyers wrote in a brief filed with the high court on Aug. 7 that, since Trump took office, they have re-evaluated the case.
They concluded that the 1993 law (widely known as the “motor voter” law) does not prohibit procedures like those used in Ohio, contrary to the deliberate misinterpretation of the law by the Obama Justice Department.
The Buckeye State has been mailing address-verification notices to voters who didn’t cast a ballot during a two-year period to ascertain whether they had moved, died, or otherwise were no longer eligible to vote and asking them to reconfirm their status.
If they failed to respond, and subsequently didn’t vote over the following four years, their names could be removed from the rolls.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who defends the six-year process as fair and reasonable, hailed the Justice Department’s about-face.
“Maintaining the integrity of the voter rolls is essential to conducting an election with efficiency and integrity,” he said after the Supreme Court announced May 30 that it would hear Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute in its upcoming term.
That case is the state’s appeal of a wrongheaded ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ignored the Justice Department’s long history of enforcing the law in other states consistent with Ohio’s practices prior to the Obama administration.
Husted, a Republican, told The Washington Post that since taking office in January 2011, nearly 560,000 deceased Ohioans have been removed from the voter rolls.
He added that the effort has also resulted in “the resolution of more than 1.65 million voters who were registered more than once”—most of them presumably from having moved and re-registered at a new address without the old registration being properly purged.
The presence on the rolls of the deceased and duplicate registrations provides fertile ground for would-be vote fraudsters. There’s no reason whatsoever for those registrations to be allowed to remain on the books.
Yet Democrats and self-styled “voting rights” groups are crying foul.
Contrary to the legislative language of the motor voter law and the law’s enforcement history prior to the Obama administration, they disingenuously argue that it doesn’t permit Ohio to use voter inactivity as a proxy to purge the rolls in the absence of additional proof.
But they can’t, or won’t, specify what “reliable evidence” would be sufficient, which suggests they’re content to allow voter rolls to remain bloated with registrations that are no longer valid.
If six years isn’t long enough, what would be?
The most blatant example of just how tainted voting rolls are nationwide came Aug. 11, when National Review tabulated Census Bureau and Election Assistance Commission figures compiled by the Election Integrity Project of Judicial Watch, a nonprofit legal watchdog.
National Review calculated that there are at least 462 counties in the 38 states it examined “where the registration rate exceeded 100 percent” of the number of U.S. citizens of voting age living in those counties. More than 3.5 million of these so-called “ghost voters” are on the rolls, by its calculation.
Of course, no one wants any legitimate voter to show up at the polls on Election Day and be told that they’re not on the list, having been improperly disenfranchised.
As for the more than 2 million Ohio “voters” purged from the rolls since 2011, how many have had that happen to them?
Apparently, few, if any. We know this because Democrats would have made an issue of it, vociferously so, by now.
But the absence of any significant voter disenfranchisement didn’t deter the Commission on Civil Rights on Aug. 18 from disagreeing with what is really nothing more than the Trump Justice Department’s restoration of the status quo ante in the Ohio case.
On a majority vote, the commission said the administration’s move “opens the door to more aggressive and inaccurate purging of voter rolls, which can lead to widespread voter disenfranchisement and suppression of low-income communities and communities of color.”
The commission’s “slippery slope” opposition should come as no surprise, however, given its current makeup. Nominally bipartisan, the eight-member panel comprises four Democrats, three independents, and just one Republican—and four of the members, including its chairman, were appointed by Obama.
“This case is about maintaining the integrity of our elections,” Husted insists, “something that will be harder to do if elections officials are not able to properly maintain the voter rolls.”
What Democrats and their liberal interest-group allies really fear is that if the Supreme Court upholds Ohio’s right to clean up its voter rolls, as it should, other states would likely follow suit—as they should.