When the nine justices of the United States Supreme Court return to the bench in January 2018, they will have very weighty issues before them, and their decisions are certain to generate a great deal of discussion and controversy.
Here are a couple of the most high-profile cases the justices will be hearing in 2018:
Purging of Voter Databases
At issue is a law in Ohio which is intended to keep the state’s voter registration rolls up to date. Those opposed to the way Ohio purges its database say it unfairly targets minority voters, but proponents argue the process is necessary to keep voter lists up to date and avoid fraudulent voting.
In the Ohio case, the justices will have to determine if it’s legal and fair to assume a voter is no longer interested in remaining on the registration rolls after they fail to vote for one or two election cycles.
Currently, Ohio sends notices to those who failed to cast a ballot during a two-year period. Those who don’t or fail to vote over the next four years are automatically purged from the list of registered voters.
NBC reports that a federal appeals court already ruled against Ohio:
“A federal appeals court ruled that Ohio’s system violated a federal law, the National Voter Registration Act, which says voters can be purged from the rolls only if they ask, move, are convicted of a felony, become mentally incapacitated or die. A failure to vote, the court said, should not trigger the beginning of the purging process.”
Professor Rick Hasen, an expert on election law at the University California at Irvine, explained why the appeals court ruled the way it did:
“All states need to do periodic maintenance, but there’s the risk that eligible voters will be inadvertently removed. So the details really matter.”
Unions And The First Amendment
In this case, the justices will decide if state government workers who choose not to join a union must still pay a share of union dues to cover the cost of negotiating contracts for all state workers. Nothing less than the future power and financial stability of public sector unions is at stake in the case.
Non-union members argue that forcing them to pay dues infringes upon their First Amendment rights in instances where they don’t agree with views the union expresses. The unions counter by noting that it’s expensive to negotiate contracts with employers that benefit all employees, not just those who are union members.
Court watchers will also be keeping an eye on whether or not any of the justices decide to retire. Those most talked about as being ready to leave the court or doing so out of concern they’ve grown too old to serve are Anthony Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Kennedy will be 82 in July, and Ginsburg turns 85 in March.