Supreme Court allows OH voter purge

ImagePeople voted in Ohio's primary election in Cincinnati last

ImagePeople voted in Ohio's primary election in Cincinnati last

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday revived Ohio's contentious policy of purging infrequent voters from registration rolls in a ruling powered by the five conservative justices and denounced by liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor as an endorsement of the disenfranchisement of minority and low-income Americans.

On a phone call with reporters after the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, lawyers for the plaintiffs in the case hinted at what could be another legal strategy for blocking Ohio-style purges, which begin the process of removing voters from the rolls merely because they have not voted. "In my view, Ohio's program does just that".

Under the OH law, voters who don't go to the polls for two consecutive years are sent a letter, asking them to confirm they are still living at the same address.

Taken as a whole, this welter of provisions could plausibly be read in the way Justice Samuel Alito does on behalf of the Courts' Republicans - as an instruction manual to carry out the sort of voter purge that OH used in this case.

The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld Ohio's procedure for purging inactive voters. "We are disappointed that the Supreme Court has upheld a law that could disenfranchise voters in OH and lead to similar laws that could impactmillions of voters across the nation".

OH is already encouraging other states to follow its lead.

In delivering the opinion of the court, Justice Samuel Alito said the law does not violate that clause or any other provision of the NRVA. He concluded that the OH system didn't violate the NVRA's failure-to-vote language since the state also sent the written mailers.

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In his own statement, Husted said he hoped the ruling would give other states a path toward purging duplicate or obsolete registrations. "This ruling is a setback for voting rights, but it is not a green light to engage in wholesale purges of eligible voters without notice". While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven't voted, Ohio's purge is slightly different. If they do not respond and do not vote over the following four years, they are removed from the rolls.

He continued, "This decision is validation of Ohio's efforts to clean up the voter rolls and now with the blessing nation's highest court, it can serve as a model for other states to use".

It also means that the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, which was created to encourage greater participation in our democracy, has been significantly weakened. If they don't vote over the next four years or return the notice, officials presume the voter has moved and drop them from voter rolls.

The four liberal justices dissented.

But U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco - whose office changed sides in the case after Trump was elected - said OH had the right to streamline "over-inflated" and "bloated" voter registration rolls.

In the OH system upheld by the high court, voters who miss voting in two years - just one federal election cycle - are sent cards to affirm their residence and registration. He voted in the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections but did not vote in 2012, saying he was unimpressed by the candidates. His case was backed by 12 generally Democratic-leaning states (pdf, p.33-35), and was opposed by the Trump administration and 17 typically Republican states (pdf, p.21-22).

Husted said that OH wants to "make it easy to vote and hard to cheat". When he showed up to vote in 2015, he was told he was no longer allowed, even though he had not changed his residence or otherwise become ineligible.

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