People For the American Way

Supreme Court Voting Rights Ruling Highlights the Importance of Fair Federal Judges

News and Analysis
Supreme Court Voting Rights Ruling Highlights the Importance of Fair Federal Judges

The June 11 Supreme Court ruling in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute highlights the significance of nominating fair-minded constitutionalists to the federal judiciary. Husted also underlines the importance of rejecting Thomas Farr, a narrow-minded elitist with a track record of opposing voting rights, from a lifetime seat on the Eastern District of North Carolina.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court upheld Ohio’s aggressive practice of purging voters, ruling that the state complies with federal law on voter roll maintenance. Ohio sends a notice to voters after they have skipped one federal election cycle. If they don’t respond and don’t vote for the next four years, they are removed from the state’s voter rolls. Contrary to the terms of the National Voter Registration Act, the state impermissibly ties the ability to vote in future elections to past voting behavior, an effective tool of disenfranchisement in our nation’s history.  This decision effectively suppresses an already marginalized voice and disproportionately disenfranchises voters of color, especially English-language learners and low-income voters.

It’s difficult to imagine a more flagrant display of voter suppression and vote-dilution tactics than what is happening in Ohio. But Trump’s nominee Thomas Farr takes the cake:

  • Farr was legal counsel for Jesse Helm’s 1990 Senate campaign that sent over 100,000 postcards to mostly African American voters suggesting that they were ineligible to vote and warning that they would be prosecuted and jailed for voter fraud.
  • Farr helped defend North Carolina’s harsh and discriminatory voting restrictions which included a discriminatory voter ID requirement and provisions reducing or eliminating out-of-precinct voting, preregistration of 16-17 year-olds, early voting, and same-day registration. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the law, ruling that it “targeted African Americans with almost surgical precision.”
  • Farr also defended North Carolina’s racially discriminatory redistricting maps that were deemed to be unconstitutional by federal judges.

The Supreme Court’s Husted decision and Farr’s nomination by Trump coupled with his voter suppression record call attention to the importance of the lower courts in protecting civil rights. Farr’s career opposing equal justice under the law, shaped by a clear ideological mission, indicates what he would bring to the federal bench. Farr has demonstrated a commitment to disenfranchising people of color, and Trump wants to give him a lifetime position as a federal judge in a North Carolina district where nearly 30 percent of the population is African American.


Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, National Voter Registration Act, Protecting Lower Courts, Protecting the Right to Vote, Supreme Court, Thomas Farr, voting rights