While President Trump gives us a limp portrayal of Zeus poised upon Mount Olympus threatening to rain down “fire and fury” thunderbolts like “the world has never seen before,” we must resist the temptation to be distracted from more seemingly mundane or less-hyped happenings. For example, on Monday the Department of Justice reversed its previous public position on the Ohio case of voter registration purges. The DOJ had testified in federal court in September 2016 that the national Voter Registration Act prohibits states from purging voters from their rolls for “infrequent voting.” But this week, the DOJ changed its position from supporting the disenfranchised Ohio voter to supporting the state of Ohio its blatant disenfranchisement of that voter. This about-face is not due to any change in federal law, but only a change in the faces of the federal administration.
This suit was filed by Larry Harmon, an Ohio resident who discovered when he tried to vote in a 2015 local election that he was no longer registered and therefore not allowed to vote. He had not voted since 2008 and was informed by poll workers that he was one of approximately 1.2 million Ohio voters purged from the state’s voter registration rolls as punishment for “infrequent voting.” He sued the state and subsequently, his case was supported by the DOJ and upheld by the federal court. However the federal Supreme Court agreed to hear the case during the Court’s next session after an appeal of the ruling. Now that the DOJ has flipped its position to support Ohio’s denial of Larry Harmon’s voting rights by declaring that voters’ registrations can be removed, it is much more likely that the Supreme Court will bless the practice of purging voter registration rolls.
Couple this action by the DOJ with the actions of President Trump’s commission appointed to study the nonexistent problem of voter fraud, and it is clear that our ability to participate in our own democracy is under serious threat – not from Zeus’s fire and fury, but Trump’s thunderbolts like the about-face in this case by the Department of Justice. This is just one thunderbolt attempting to weaken Virginians’ right to vote – others have been coming from Virginia’s General Assembly. During the 2106-2017 session, many barrier-to-voting bills were filed. We can thank Governor McAuliffe and Attorney General Herring for putting these fires out.
What does this have to do with right now in Virginia? There are several lessons to be taken from this threat to voters’ rights: first and foremost, vote in November! And don’t just vote, vote for Ralph Northam for Governor and Mark Herring for Attorney General; vote for the candidates who have fought to protect your basic American rights. When you have voted, consider the issue of the gerrymandering of our state districts and how this gerrymandering leads directly to the election of Delegates and Senators who will vote to steal your right to vote, as well as to electing Congressmen and Senators who are eager to do the same. Protect your right to vote by using it. And by using it wisely. We must not let our fundamental rights be stolen from us by our own lazy and uninformed lack of civic participation. Stand up, pay attention and vote!
Delegate Kory represents the 38th District in the Virginia House of Delegates. She may be emailed at [email protected]