Not Voting Is Government By Other Means

News out of SCOTUS this past week affected Ohio and the rest of the nation. Almost every news source covered the story. For this essay Analysis will reference New York Times’ Supreme Court Upholds Ohio’s Purge of Voting Rolls by Adam Liptak (6-11-18). For those of you keeping score at home the ruling concerns Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, No. 16-980. The “Husted” is Jon Husted, current Ohio Secretary of State as well as current candidate for lieutenant governor in the upcoming 2018 election (timing is everything). For the namesake of the Institute on the obverse side WIKI gives “In response to the 1963 Children’s Crusade and the passage of the Voting Rights Act, A. Philip Randolph, former head of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, an early black trade union, and Bayard Rustin, founded the APRI to forge an alliance between the civil rights movement and the labor movement. These efforts got them on the master list of Nixon political opponents.” (obviously not running for anything). Lots of handwringing and OMG accompanied this story in terms of national elections, voter suppression as an instrument of one party domination, etc. In an ambivalent gesture of affirmation with regard to these concerns Husted tried to minimize them by asserting Ohio would not “enforce” the ruling until after the fall election (appearance of conflict of interest and all). His official response (according to the NY Times): ““Today’s decision is a victory for election integrity,” Mr. Husted, a Republican, said in a statement, adding that “this decision is validation of Ohio’s efforts to clean up the voter rolls” and could “serve as a model for other states to use.”” (A veritable “C’mon down” call on The Price Is Right). Writing for the majority “Federal law, Justice Alito wrote, “plainly reflects Congress’s judgment that the failure to send back the card, coupled with the failure to vote during the period covering the next two general federal elections, is significant evidence that the addressee has moved.”” (from whence most of the outrage flows given that statistically, not as many people as get purged move within that period of time – in Ohio or elsewhere.) The Times relays his succinct reasoning: ““The dissents have a policy disagreement, not just with Ohio, but with Congress,” he wrote. “But this case presents a question of statutory interpretation, not a question of policy. We have no authority to second-guess Congress or to decide whether” Ohio’s notification program “is the ideal method for keeping its voting rolls up to date.” “The only question before us is whether it violates federal law,” Justice Alito wrote. “It does not.”” Analysis finds the reasoning to be flawless. Eliding the “political” questions of voter suppression, rigging the game through voter ID, or “use it or lose it” requirements, or discount double check those weekly mailings that all look like official car warranty, healthcare, or government benefit notices, Analysis finds the significance of the ruling more in line with the economic stimulus endeavors following the financial meltdown during the Bush administration. How so? Given the ruling and the current Ohio Secretary of State, it is difficult to ascertain what percentage of Ohioans eligible to vote are registered and really can vote, especially if they haven’t voted. One figure from 2012 gives 70% registered. It is important to bear in mind that in addition to the countless ways to register  (library, DMV, etc.) there is also the political theater of interest groups energetically soliciting the remaining 30% to register at large public gatherings (festivals, rallies, etc.). Yet after the registration comes…what? It is akin to all the unmarried couples who live together and introduce their significant other as their “fiancé.” No one bothers to equally forcefully get people to the polls to vote in innumerable local elections. Why? Because most elections concern mundane local concerns, not the stuff of national news (and populist outrage). Analysis finds the significance of the ruling, its stimulus character, to be that to change the “Congress’s judgment that the failure to send back the card, coupled with the failure to vote during the period covering the next two general federal elections, is significant evidence that the addressee has moved” doesn’t require changing the US congress. It does require changing one’s local Ohio representative or senator which requires actually voting in the mundane local elections that determine these members of the Ohio legislature. Not only does voting make the ruling moot (since the registered voter is active) but also makes it possible to improve the state’s voting policy to be more inclusive (EZ). According to the NY Times “The case concerned Larry Harmon, a software engineer and Navy veteran who lives near Akron, Ohio. He voted in the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections but did not vote in 2012, saying he was unimpressed by the candidates. He also sat out the midterm elections in 2010 and 2014. But in 2015, Mr. Harmon did want to vote against a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana and found that his name had been stricken from the voting rolls. State officials said that they had done so after sending Mr. Harmon a notice in 2011 asking him to confirm his eligibility to vote and that he did not respond. Mr. Harmon said he did not remember receiving a notice, but he was dropped from the voter rolls.” As pointed out in a past blog post, no government is politics by other means. Not voting is government by other means. By not bothering with mundane local elections, Mr. Harmon inadvertently affirmed Ohio’s purge policy.

 

 

 

 

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