Teddy Roosevelt once said, “There is no enemy of free government more dangerous and none so insidious as the corruption of the electorate.” The lower federal courts have recently unleashed a relentless assault on state powers over elections. Thankfully, today the Supreme Court reined in one of those lower court opinions, but the broader threat to state powers over election integrity remains strong.
In Ohio, Secretary of State Jon Husted removed 465,000 dead voters and 1.3 million duplicate registrations from the voter lists. That’s an awful lot of dead weight, rife with opportunities for fraud. The ACLU took the state to court and had the Sixth Circuit rule that the state’s process of cleaning the voter rolls violated the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which prohibits states from purging names from the voter registration list solely because of the failure to vote and requires the state to notify the individual of the potential change in status before rendering him or her inactive. Today, in a 5-4 opinion written by Justice Alito, the high court recognized that indeed Ohio had a very fair process for removing names that was not based solely on voter inactivity.
The state used databases to match up names that have not updated their registrations or voted for the last two years. At that point, the state sent an address-confirmation notice to those addresses requesting the voters to verify that their status hasn’t changed (or that they are still alive!). If voters failed to vote in any election for four consecutive years after the issuance of the notice, then — and only then — would the board of elections remove their names from the rolls. If they finally woke up from oblivion years later, they could always re-register to vote.
This case, like many others, should never even have been in court, allowing wayward judges and the ACLU to lock up a commonsense law for several years and election cycles. If an individual had already been denied registration and cannot re-register, that would have been a valid justiciable case or controversy. Simply attacking voter integrity laws in the abstract should not be within the purview of the judiciary, particularly the lower courts.
Contaminated voters rolls pose an existential threat to the integrity of elections, yet according to the Public Interest Legal Foundation, as of last year there were 141 counties with more registered voters than living people of voting age! J. Christian Adams, president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, was happy with today’s decision and predicted, “The days of trying to hamstring maintenance responsibilities in the absence of federal guidance are over.”
The problem is that the Left has the resources to attack every single election integrity law or commonsense method and procedure for conducting elections. This is just one victory in a battle of a broader war the Left continues to win. In recent years, the courts blocked states from verifying the citizenship status of individuals registering to vote. Courts around the country have mandated that states provide for specific days of early voting, out-of-precinct voting, same-day registration, pre-registration of minors, and straight ticket ballots — all the while barring states from requiring a photo ID to vote. In most cases, the Supreme Court refuses to hear the appeal. Just last week, a federal judge in Indiana blocked the state’s law clearing out voter rolls of those who are registered to vote out of state.
We never win Roe– or Obergefell-level decisions. The Left merely comes back to fight another day in 95 percent of the other cases, where the statutory or constitutional question is slightly different. This is what we are seeing with immigration as well.
Clarence Thomas spoke to the broader constitutional issue of interfering with most state election laws in his concurrence. Thomas noted that even if the respondents were correct about their statutory interpretation, such a statute preventing states from cleaning its voter rolls couldn’t be constitutional. Congress wields power “only over the ‘when, where, and how’ of holding congressional elections,” not over the question of who can vote,” observed Thomas. This should shed light on future cases dealing with photo ID and verification of citizenship.
The growing trend of the courts becoming the sole and final arbiter of political disputes between the two parties over election law — and almost always in favor of Democrats — will force GOP leaders to confront judicial tyranny. We know Republicans don’t really care about the social transformation being forced on us by the courts with social issues and immigration, but don’t they care about their own power?
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.