Local and state election officials have long faced the difficult task of facilitating one of democracy’s central tenets: figuring out who to take off outdated voter rolls without disenfranchising eligible voters.
Increasingly, though, officials find themselves caught in the middle as competing interest groups from the right and left work — often through the court system — to influence how thousands of local election officials do their jobs.
The latest case, involving Ohio, goes before the Supreme Court this fall. It again pits conservative and liberal advocates against each other but it also promises the possibility of judicial guidance on how to maintain both access and integrity in local voter rolls.
“I can tell you why there are so many lawsuits,” said Gary Bartlett, a former executive director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement. “It’s because there are a lot of differences of opinion, and groups are trying to get an advantage — whether it’s a political party or association or some nonprofit that thinks they’re doing the Lord’s work.”
The resulting turbulence is costly and frustrating, and it brings about, as several groups of local and state officials point out in a recent filing at the Supreme Court, “a dizzying number of challenges.”