While the Supreme Court began hearing arguments in a potentially landmark voting rights case on Wednesday, civil rights groups rallied outside in support of wider access to the vote.
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, a challenge to Ohio’s practice of purging inactive voters from its voter roll. While the state insists that that the rule is necessary to ensure election integrity, civil rights groups see the policy as a violation of federal election laws and the latest in a long line of efforts to stealthily disenfranchise minorities and impoverished voters.
Inside, justices appeared split along liberal-conservative lines over whether the practice constituted a violation of federal law. “Every year, a certain number of people die; a certain number of people move to California; it has to figure it out,” said Justice Stephen Breyer, while Justice Sonia Sotomayor questioned the policy’s assumption of failure to vote as a consequence of moving or passing away.
Huddle in a semicircle on the sidewalk outside, about fifty supporters of the plaintiff’s arguments heard speeches from advocates of voting rights including the American Civil Liberties Union, League of Women Voters, and the Hip Cop Caucus. Demonstrating to “resist cynical attacks on our democracy,” they chanted “our voice, our vote” as a long line formed outside the Supreme Court in hopes of securing a seat in the courtroom.
A decision in the case is expected later this year, and it could spell widespread impacts for voting rights issues and serve as a precedent in similar cases on voter ID laws across the country.