Black person's face with a red hat on their head peering over a sign that they are holding that says Let The People Vote

As the mid-terms loom, Democrats could regain control of Congress in 2018, and make a move for impeachment of Trump. But will progressive-minded voters be denied their constitutional right to vote, especially minorities? Or what about younger voters, who are energized to vote against candidates who support the National Rifle Association?

Citing a recent a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the national office of the ACLU recently told the Free Press that 16 million people experienced difficulty voting in the 2016 presidential election. Of the 16 million, an estimated 1.2 million were turned away or their vote not counted.

The ACLU says over two-hundred thousand walked away from a long line, but an equal amount were denied because they lacked proper photo ID due to stricter voter ID laws. Registration issues resulted in 300,000 votes not being counted, and 250,000 votes were “lost”, which means the voter refused to vote provisionally or their provisional ballot wasn’t counted.

How Trump defeated Hillary Clinton is a complex answer with many variables, such as disgruntled blue-collar voters and Russian interference. But one factor getting less attention is what some charge as “legalized” voter suppression of traditional Democrat voters, or Jim Crow for the 21st century.

The ACLU is fighting voter suppression and voter purges across the nation, but they are bi-partisan and refuse to directly lay blame on whom exactly they are fighting.

But almost every battle is pitted against a state lead by a Republican super majority which is stealthily advancing anti-voting strategies so to combat what they perceive is widespread voter fraud, a proven myth.

And in Ohio, which we all knowhas picked the Presidential winner 28 of 30 times over the last century, the ACLU and others – including our own Bob Fitrakis – are pushing back against what many say is the nation’s strictest voter purge process. According to Reuters, 144,000 voters from major Ohio urban areas were purged between 2012 and up until the 2016 Presidential Election.

Also known as the Ohio “supplemental process”, critics say it simply removes voters for not voting enough. The supplemental process has been Ohio law for more than two decades, but Secretary of State Republican Jon Husted has interpreted and administered the law in a way that critics say unlawfully targets minorities and those of lower incomes.

If a registered voter does not vote over a two-year period, even in a mid-term election, the process to purge is initiated by sending a confirmation notice that must be returned. If the notice is not returned, and he or she fails to vote in a federal election over the next four years, they will be de-registered.

Both the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and the Help America Vote Act of 2002 forbid states from removing registered voters for simply not voting.

“This is just another example where instead of voters choosing their politicians, it’s politicians choosing who their voters are,” says Freda Levenson, legal director for the Ohio ACLU.

The number purged since 2004 could be over 1 million and higher, say voter rights activists such as our editor Bob Fitrakis, and many were minorities or of lower income.

Many registered voters refused to vote for a President in 2016. Thus the challenge for the ACLU is: How many in Ohio failed to respond to the confirmation notice sent years earlier and how could this affect the 2018 midterms and in 2020?

The League of Women Voters found four million, over half the state’s registered voters, were sent confirmation letters after they failed to vote in the 2010 election cycle.

Levenson says the confirmation notice looks like junk mail. “No one notices this post card, and then no one tells you you’ve been removed,” she says. “The Secretary of State is saying, ‘No, we’re not removing them for not voting, we’re removing them for failure to respond to the notice’.”

The ACLU is bi-partisan and refuses to say Republicans are guilty for deliberately removing Democrats from the rolls. Others are not as cautious.

 “It’s absolutely partisan targeting of voters who are disproportionately from urban areas,” says our Bob Fitrakis, who co-wrote the book The Strip and Flip Selection of 2016: Five Jim Crows and Electronic Election Theft.

Fitrakis says most Republican power grabs have been based on voter suppression.

“If someone hasn’t exercised free speech in awhile you don’t make them go re-register. Voting is a constitutional right,” he says. “There’s no logical reason other than partisan voter suppression.”

The ACLU has helped challenge Ohio’s purge process in federal court and Husted has put it on hold. But Husted has appealed the case (Husted v. Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute) to the US Supreme Court and oral arguments are ongoing. If the conservative-leaning court rules in favor of Husted, other states may incorporate the same process, especially those controlled by Republicans.

“If the US Supreme Court legitimizes this process they will be saying it doesn’t violate the law and Ohio will continue to purge and disenfranchise all these people. And more importantly, give a green light to other states. It could open the floodgates,” says Levenson.

The Republican’s zeal to remove Democrats from the rolls is chilling enough. But also ongoing is the federal government’s pivot from fighting voter suppression to fighting mass voter fraud, again a proven myth promoted by Republicans and the Resident-in-Chief.

This was witnessed in Ohio recently when The Department of Justice, which is tasked to protecting voter rights through the National Voting Rights Act (1965), once opposed Ohio’s purge process.

Yet when the US Supreme Court took up Husted v. Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institutein 2017, the DOJ filed a brief supporting Ohio’s purge process.  

“For some reason the Department of Justice decided it had been wrong for all these years and completely reversed itself and filed a brief on the other side,” says Levenson.