Published: Tue, June 12, 2018
People | By Leon Thompson

Supreme Court approves Ohio's method of purging voter rolls

Supreme Court approves Ohio's method of purging voter rolls

In a five to four vote Monday, the nation's highest court ruled OH did not violate federal laws by purging inactive voters from the state's registry.

In a 5-4 decision, the court said that Ohio's removal of the voters from the rolls does not violate the National Voter Registration Act's "failure to vote" clause because the state sent voters "preaddressed, postage-prepaid return cards" asking them to confirm they still reside at a certain address and removes voters who do not return the card only after they "fail to vote in any election for four more years".

The Supreme Court has heard a bevy of voting rights cases since its controversial 2013 decision striking down a key section of the Voting Rights Act, which had forced mostly Southern states to clear changes in election laws with federal officials.

Justice Samuel Alito said for the court that OH is complying with the 1993 National Voter Registration Act. And in a scathing separate dissent, Justice Sotomayor reminded the Court that it was perverting the entire objective of the motor-voter law by construing it as permissive toward voter purges - particularly those which, like Ohio's, disproportionately affects minority voters, which the same law prohibits. "The right to vote is not "use it or lose it", Chris Carson, president of the League of Women Voters which has fought in favor of numerous voting rights cases, said in a statement. Republicans say voter rolls need scrutiny to prevent fraud and promote ballot integrity, while Democrats insist the efforts are meant to reduce turnout from Democratic-leaning groups such as racial minorities.

The Ohio program follows this to the letter.
The decision could mean that more states will adopt similar laws to trim their voter rolls, particularly when (as the majority observed today) roughly one in eight voter registrations is "either invalid or significantly inaccurate".

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Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who filed a separate dissent, said that Congress enacted the voter registration law "against the backdrop of substantial efforts by states to disenfranchise low-income and minority voters". If that person not respond and doesn't vote over the next four years, they are dropped from the registration list.

OH election officials send notices to anyone who fails to cast a ballot during a two-year period. "The only question before us", Alito made clear, is whether the practice "violates federal law". As part of the lawsuit, a judge past year ordered the state to count 7,515 ballots cast by people whose names had been removed from the voter rolls.

The Trump administration supported Ohio's voter purge.

The Supreme Court said that's allowed under the 1993 "motor voter" law. A three-judge panel on that court had ruled 2-1 that Ohio's practice was illegal.

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