A software engineer Larry Harmon who lives in Akron, Ohio, firmly believes in the right to vote but sometimes does not vote deliberately. An example was in 2012. He did not have a preferred candidate on the ballot. Therefore he did not vote. After three years, Mr. Harmon wished to vote against the legalization of marijuana, but unfortunately, his name was not there at his regular polling station.
The reason Mr. Harmon was not on the list was that the election officials had decided to remove his name due to his occasional choice not to participate. On November 8th, the Supreme Court will have to determine the legality of the officials using the policy that if one does not use their right to vote it is taken away. Choosing not to vote is a common practice. According to the United States Election Assistance Commission, about a third of the registered voters did not participate in 2016 election even in a swing state, Ohio.
In Ohio, the exercise of selecting voters for removal is done too fast. A voter receives a notice for failure to participate in a single election. Failure of the voter to respond in the subsequent four years in their names being removed from the roll. The election officials justify this move by claiming that failure to respond implies the voter relocated and this enhances the credibility of the voting rolls.
Mr. Harmon claims he took part in 2004 and 2008 elections but missed the subsequent presidential and mid-term elections. In 2015 when he wanted to vote, he had been residing in the same place for approximately 16 years. According to him, he has been paying taxes and that the election officials had all the information to know that he was still living in Ohio.
The judges have to decide on whether two federals laws permit the officials to cull voters based on the notices triggered by skipping the voting exercise. The regulations restrict the removal based on failure to cast a ballot but permit removal due to voter relocation which is confirmed with a notice. The Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Mr. Harmon. Ohio had violated the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 according to the Court in using failure to vote as the basis for issuing notices. Mr. Harmons lawyers and the American Civil Liberties Union alleged that if this decision were not made approximately 7500 votes of bona fide Ohioans would have been locked out of the voting exercise in 2016. The statement was made in a Supreme Court brief.
Another way of determining the effect of Ohios approach is a Reuters Study carried out in the previous year. The study revealed that close to 144,000 people were purged out of the voting rolls in the recent past in Ohios three biggest counties, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus. The study also established that the effect was twice in regions that are dominantly Democratic with neighborhoods with high numbers of African-Americans experiencing the most significant impact of this.
Although state officials claim a mail was sent to Mr. Harmon, he says he did not get it. The Democratic-inclined states filed a brief to support Mr. Harmon while the Republican states filed an opposing brief. Until the last presidential elections, the Justice Department has been of the opinion that failure to vote should not result in voter disenfranchisement. According to Mr. Harmon, there is a ploy to keep voters from voting in some states. As an engineer, he encourages the collection of data from different sources, something Ohio does not seem to be doing. Every other state except Ohio uses voter-friendly means to cull voters. Mr. Harmon believes the right to vote is fundamental in a democratic system and should be protected.
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