Justice Department filed legal papers with the high court on
Monday staking out the new position in the voting rights case,
backing the Republican-led state's policy to purge inactive
Former President Barack Obama's Justice Department had argued in
a lower court that Ohio's policy violated the 1993 National
Voter Registration Act, which Congress passed to make it easier
for Americans to register to vote.
Civil liberties advocates who challenged Ohio's policy have said
it illegally erased thousands of voters from registration rolls
and can disproportionately impact minorities and poor people who
tend to back Democratic candidates.
The state on Tuesday welcomed the administration's action but
voting rights advocates opposed it. The League of Women Voters
accused the administration of "playing politics with our
democracy and threatening the fundamental right to vote" by
siding with an Ohio policy it said disenfranchises eligible
"Our democracy is stronger when more people have access to the
ballot box - not fewer," the Democratic National Committee
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati last year
blocked Ohio's policy, ruling that it ran afoul of the 1993 law.
The state appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed in May to
hear the case.
The legal brief filed by the Justice Department said President
Donald Trump's administration had reconsidered the government's
stance and now supports Ohio.
The brief, signed by Acting U.S. Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall,
argued that Ohio's policy is sound because it does not
immediately remove voters from the rolls for failing to vote,
but only triggers an address-verification procedure.
The American Civil Liberties Union last year sued Ohio
Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted over the policy. The
suit said the policy led to the removal of tens of thousands of
people from the voter rolls in 2015.
Husted said in a statement he welcomed the federal government's
support, noting Ohio's policy "has been in place for more than
two decades and administered the same way by both Republican and
Democrat secretaries of state."
Under Ohio's policy, if registered voters miss voting for two
years, they are sent registration confirmation notices. If they
do not respond and do not vote over the following four years,
they are removed from the rolls. Ohio officials argue that
canceling inactive voters helps keep voting rolls current,
clearing out those who have moved away or died.
Democrats have accused Republicans of taking steps at the state
level, including laws imposing new requirements on voters such
as presenting certain types of government-issued identification,
intended to suppress the vote of groups who generally favor
(Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham)
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