Tomorrow the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, a challenge to Ohio’s scheme for purging people who haven’t voted recently from the voter rolls. Under Ohio’s current law, if a person does not vote in a two-year period, they are mailed a notice to verify or correct their address. If they do not respond to the mailer, and don’t vote within the next four years, they are removed from the voter rolls. The process was adopted in 2012 after the state settled a lawsuit by conservative groups pushing Ohio to more aggressively purge its voter rolls. Voting rights advocates challenged the new scheme in court, and the Supreme Court is now taking it up after an appeals court ruled against Ohio.
Voting rights advocates fear that a ruling in favor of Ohio’s system will be used by voter fraud alarmists to pressure other states to more aggressively kick voters off the rolls. “They want the ability to use non-voting to remove people,” Demos senior counsel Stuart Naifeh, who is representing the Ohio challengers, told TPM. “And in these cases that they’ve brought or threatened to bring, they want counties or states to adopt that as a practice.” Four Republican commissioners from Trump’s now-defunct “voter fraud” commission are involved in legal briefs supporting Ohio in the case. Trump’s Justice Department is also backing Ohio, a reversal from the Obama administration’s position.
In an article in the New York Law Journal, Jerry Goldfeder and Myrna Pérez discuss recent progress on voting rights restoration for citizens with criminal records, and look forward to prospects for change in 2018. While 4.7 million Americans are still unable to participate fully in civic life because of restrictive voting rights restoration laws, Goldfeder and Perez point to a number of promising signs:
- In Alabama, the state legislature has passed the “Definition of Moral Turpitude Act” to finally comply with Chapman v. Gooden and define the term to eliminate the discretion that local elected officials used to disenfranchise voters. That case challenged the Alabama Secretary of State’s practice of denying voter registration to all citizens with felony convictions, despite state law being limited to crimes of “moral turpitude,” a vague term that had been problematic for decades. After the trial court in Gooden directed the state to develop a workable definition, they amended their practice in order to avoid further litigation, but it took 10 years, until this past May, for a clarifying law to be passed.
- In New Jersey Gov.-elect Phil Murphy has come out strongly in favor of expanding access to voting rights for persons with criminal convictions.
- In Florida, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition has gathered more than 900,000 signatures on a petition to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would restore voting rights to almost all of the 1.5 million people in that state who have completed their sentences.
- The Democracy Restoration Act has been introduced in every Congress since 2008. The Act would restore voting rights in federal elections to all Americans with a past conviction who are living in the community, including those released from prison and probationers who are never incarcerated, affecting about 4.7 million people. New Alabama Senator Doug Jones, who file an amicus brief in the Chapman case, has publicly stated his support for this Act.
Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States
A legal professional for more than three decades, Paul Seeman has served as an attorney and deputy county counsel, as well as a judge for the Alameda County Superior Court in California. In addition to his bench service, he served as a member of the Judicial Council Task Force for Criminal Justice Collaboration on Mental Health Issues. As an attorney, Paul Seeman was also a member of the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States.
There are a number of reasons why a litigator would seek admission to the Bar of the Supreme Court. Membership has a pragmatic component since in almost every case court rules dictate that each party to a case being argued in court must be represented by a member of the Supreme Court Bar in good standing.
Additional perks come with bar membership, as well. For the general public, attending a session of open court requires standing in line for a good number of hours before the 10 a.m. arguments commence. Bar members, however, have their own special section of the courtroom in which they are able to sit. Seating is limited to those who arrive first, but the line for bar members is typically much shorter than the one for the general public.
Over his more than three decades in the field of law, Paul Seeman served in a number of roles including judge, attorney, and educator. While engaged with his career, Paul Seeman also participated for many years in the Dipsea, an annual cross-country race in Northern California.
First held in November of 1905, the Dipsea has taken place every year since 1983 on the second Sunday of June. America’s oldest trail race, it requires runners to navigate a strenuous but scenic 7.4-mile course which begins in Mill Valley and extends to Stinson Beach.
The race was first organized by members of the Olympic Club in San Francisco and was named for the Dipsea Inn, a seaside establishment that served as the endpoint of the 1905 race. Over the years, the Dipsea has welcomed such runners as Jack Kirk, who ran the race in 74 consecutive years, winning it twice. In 2016, Brian Pilcher crossed the finish line first to earn his third Dipsea victory.