June 23, 2018

Supreme Court Backs Ohio's Right to Purge Voting Rolls

11 June 2018, 11:51 | Taylor George

Supreme Court Allows Ohio to Purge Inactive Voters

Supreme Court decides case on purging voter registration 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.

Harmon learned that, although he had lived in the same place for more than 16 years, he had been removed from the voter rolls because he had not voted in 2009 and 2010; he also had not responded - because he said he didn't remember receiving it - to a notice that the state elections board had sent him in 2011 to confirm his eligibility.

By a 5-4 vote that split the conservative and liberal justices, the court rejected arguments in a case from OH that the practice violates a federal law meant to increase the ranks of registered voters. "The only question before us is whether it violates federal law", wrote Samuel Alito, referring to the 1993 Voter Registration Act.

The majority pushed back against Justice Stephen Breyer's dissent, which was joined by Sotomayor and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan. "Today's decision forces these communities and their allies to be even more proactive and vigilant in holding their states accountable and working to dismantle the obstacles they face in exercising the fundamental right to vote". Democrats have accused Republicans of trying to suppress votes from minorities and poorer people who tend to vote for Democrats.

Partisan fights over ballot access are being fought across the country.

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Critics argued that the "use it or lose it policy", violated the Failure-to-Vote Clause of the NVRA by using a person's failure to vote twice over: once as the trigger for sending a notice that must be returned and again as one of the two requirements for removal.

The Ohio program follows this to the letter.
But not everyone who moves notifies the post office, the state said. But civil rights groups decried the decision, saying the Supreme Court should make it easier for people to vote rather than allowing states to put up roadblocks.

OH contends voters are not purged from registration rolls for not voting but for failing to respond to a notice mailed by the state to them and then not casting a ballot for four more years. The court's decision essentially endorses "the very purging that Congress expressly sought to protect against", Sotomayor wrote. As part of the lawsuit, a judge a year ago ordered the state to count 7,515 ballots cast by people whose names had been removed from the voter rolls.

The Supreme Court majority said OH didn't violate that provision.

The Trump administration supported Ohio's voter purge. A three-judge panel on that court had ruled 2-1 that Ohio's practice was illegal.

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