Romano: It ain’t voter suppression if you bother to show up

The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld an Ohio law that kicked people off the voter rolls if they missed elections and failed to respond to notices from elections officials. That means voters in Florida had better show up at the polls or pay attention to notices in their mailboxes because this state has a similar law that allows them to be removed from the rolls. [Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]
The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld an Ohio law that kicked people off the voter rolls if they missed elections and failed to respond to notices from elections officials. That means voters in Florida had better show up at the polls or pay attention to notices in their mailboxes because this state has a similar law that allows them to be removed from the rolls. [Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]
Published June 12 2018

So the Supreme Court is in favor of voter suppression.

Or is it election integrity?

I suppose your interpretation depends on your party affiliation.

Liberals seem convinced that an Ohio voting law upheld by the Supreme Court on Monday is a devious plot to keep Democrats from voting. Conservatives are just as certain that the law is an evenhanded plan designed to ensure up-to-date voter lists.

Is it possible both are correct?

Just in case you’re wondering, the Ohio law is not terribly different from how we do things around here. Basically, it allows Ohio to declare voters ineligible if they do not respond to state queries.

In Florida, elections supervisors are required to perform similar "maintenance’’ checks every other year. That means they send notices to people they suspect might have moved or died. If a voter does not respond to the notice and does not vote in the next two federal elections, they can be ruled ineligible.

It happens in Florida probably more than you know. Every year, about 250,000 residents are removed from Florida’s voting rolls, some voluntarily and some without their knowledge.

Which brings us back to the original question:

Is this a partisan policy, or a common-sense policy?

I say it’s both.

There is no doubt Republican leaders in Florida have been systematically trying to make it more difficult for certain left-leaning demographic groups to vote. That would include an absurd purge attempt by Gov. Rick Scott in 2012 that was blatantly targeted toward Hispanic voters and ruled unconstitutional.

It also includes Scott’s misguided efforts to limit early voting and deny the restoration of rights for felons. So it’s not a stretch to assume Republicans like the idea of winnowing these lists because GOP voters tend to be more engaged and less likely to be targeted by elections supervisors.

But that doesn’t mean it’s wrong to seek accurate voter eligibility lists.

Federal law prohibits states from removing voters simply because they skipped elections, but it’s not unreasonable for elections officials to investigate whether a voter’s status has changed.

So the question is whether a couple of notices in the mail, and a couple of missed elections, is good enough to suspend a voter’s rights. The Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, decided it was.

"The ruling is very disappointing. We believe every voice deserves to be heard,’’ said Patti Brigham, the president of the Florida League of Women Voters. "We already have checks and balances in place, and taking these types of aggressive actions seem presumptive and onerous.’’

I would tend to agree with that.

But the Supreme Court says otherwise, and so now it is up to voters in Florida to make sure they are active participants in democracy. And even if they don’t vote, at least pay attention to the mailbox.

Honestly, for something as important as the election of local, state and federal officials, it’s not asking too much for residents to be marginally engaged every so often.

The fact that Democrats see this kind of ruling as detrimental to their chances at the ballot box may say more about their party’s enthusiasm than the Supreme Court’s politics.

You want more voters? You want to win more elections?

Then start by showing up more often.

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