Caitlin Wise

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Imagine showing up to the voting poll, eager to vote and to show support for a candidate, and waiting in a long line, possibly in the cold. Then imagine handing your identification over only to be told you were not on the voter registration roll. This is what happened to 100,000 voters in the 2016 presidential primary election when they were purged from the voter registration rolls. Because of the voter purging, they were unable to cast their vote in a controversial and close election. ABC News reported many voters who were removed from voting registration rolls were from low-income neighborhoods or neighborhoods that tended to vote Democratic. The New York Times referred to purging statutes as a "malicious pattern" sweeping the country. The question in Common Cause v. Kemp is whether this is a malicious pattern stripping voters of federal protection or a state's right of protecting the integrity of the voting system.

Recently, voters have filed suits claiming states' voter purge statutes violate the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). However, there is a dearth of precedent that provides guidance on the trigger provision in the NVRA. The trigger provision in the NVRA gives states the right to remove voters in order to decrease voter fraud by using the identity of the deceased or a non-resident only after providing notice. This provision, however, has created disputes regarding the silence and whether abstaining from voting can be a trigger. Courts differ on how to interpret the silence of the trigger provision in the NVRA. Common Cause differs from the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in its opinion of what the silence of the NVRA conveys about the trigger provision. Congress believed it created a black and white law that provided safeguards for the right not to vote and balanced the interests of the state. These black and white lines of the statute bled together when states began to interpret it. It is now gray, and the Supreme Court of the United States or Congress will have to try and draw the lines again. However, for now, it is important for Georgia voters to recognize they have a right not to vote, but if a voter confirmation notice comes in the mail, a reply is necessary to remain on the voter registration rolls