Both Eric Murphy and Chad Readler have defended Ohio’s voting restrictions in cases in front of the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Now, Murphy, the state’s solicitor general, and Readler, who currently works at the Justice Department, will both have a chance to sit on that appeals court, thanks to nominations announced by the White House Thursday.
Murphy, last fall, argued for Ohio in front of the Supreme Court, in a case challenging the state’s voter purge system. The system allows election officials to remove voters from the rolls if they sit out two federal elections in a row and do not respond to subsequent notifications from the state. Voting rights advocates say it’s disenfranchising eligible voters.
The Sixth Circuit ruled against Ohio in 2016. The Supreme Court has not handed down its decision in the case yet.
Murphy also defended Ohio when it was sued for its 2014 cutbacks to early voting, which eliminated the state’s “golden week,” when voters could register and vote at the same time. The appeals court ultimately ruled in favor of Ohio, overturning a lower court’s decision.
Readler, meanwhile, worked on Ohio election law cases when he was an attorney for Jones Day (where Murphy also worked for some time). He was involved in writing Ohio’s legal briefs supporting a law that allowed election officials to throw out the ballots of absentee and provisional voters if the addresses and birthdates they fill out on the ballot forms didn’t perfectly match what’s in the state’s records.
Readler also represented the Trump campaign in election-related cases, including a lawsuit bought by Ohio Democrats alleging Trump’s calls for vigilante poll watchers amounted to voter intimidation.
Since joining the Trump administration in January 2017, Readler has led the DOJ’s Civil Division as its acting head. Trump has since nominated Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ chief-of-staff, Jody Hunt, to take over the division. Hunt’s nomination awaits Senate confirmation.
Progressive groups are already signaling that they’ll oppose Readler’s and Murphy’s nominations.
“These individuals would pose serious threats to the rights and liberties of people in the Sixth Circuit if they were to become federal judges,” Nan Aron, the president of Alliance for Justice, said in a statement that pointed specifically to both nominees’ records on voting rights, among other things.
Democrats won’t likely have any tools to stop them from bring confirmed. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has said he will no longer honor the committee’s custom on blue slips — in which nominees only move forward in committee if both home state senators turn in blue slips approving of their advancement — on appeals court nominees, unless he believes that the White House did not confer with the home state senators in choosing the appointees.
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