Beshear joins Ohio case before U.S. Supreme Court to defend voting rights

FRANKFORT — Attorney General Andy Beshear is asking the Supreme Court of the United States to strike down an Ohio law in order to safeguard Kentuckians from any potential for a similar voter-suppression law.

The Ohio law subjects voters to a process that removes them from the voter rolls if they fail to vote during any two-year period. Given there are no Kentucky elections in 2017, a similar law could disenfranchise every Kentuckian who failed to vote in 2016, Beshear said.

Beshear and a group of state attorneys general say in their amicus brief with the nation’s highest court that the Ohio law violates the National Voter Registration Act and should be struck down to prevent these types of laws being instituted in their states.

“Voting is the bedrock principle for our democracy and must be protected,” Beshear said. “A law like this in Kentucky would mean those who did not vote in the 2016 elections would be barred from voting in the 2018 elections.”

The National Voter Registration Act says that while recognizing that states should remove ineligible persons from the voter rolls, it prohibits any maintenance procedure that “result(s) in the removal …of any person from the official list of voters registered to vote…by reason of the person’s failure to vote,” the AGs say.

Many eligible voters do not vote for reasons having nothing to do with changing residence, Beshear said, adding that a “deregistration” process triggered by a failure to vote like in Ohio will disproportionately exclude certain voters such as minorities, low-income and disabled voters.

Beshear and the 12 state attorneys general say there are more direct and reliable ways to identify voters who have moved.

States are “responsible for maintaining accurate and up-to-date statewide voter registration rolls in a manner consistent with the National Voter Registration Act and the Help America Vote Act. These federal statutes were enacted to ensure that states administer the voter-registration process for federal elections in a manner that enhances the participation of eligible citizens as voters, rather than serving as a barrier to voting,” according to the AGs’ brief.