Supreme Court rules in favor of OH 'voter purge'

Pauline Gross
June 11, 2018

Failing to vote can lead to getting knocked off voter registration rolls, a divided Supreme Court ruled Monday in a decision that likely will help Republicans and harm Democrats. A federal appeals court had blocked the procedure for 2016, letting 7,500 state residents cast ballots even though they'd previously been struck from the rolls.

Under Ohio's policy, if registered voters miss voting for two years, they are sent registration confirmation notices. 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. This term, it faces cases from Wisconsin and Maryland challenging what opponents claim were election maps drawn by state legislators for purely partisan gain. People who do not respond and don't vote over the next four years, including in two more federal elections, are dropped from the list of registered voters.... OH wanted to initiate a purge that sent notices to voters if they missed voting for just two years, arguing that it was the subsequent failure to respond to multiple notices that triggered their removal, not failure to vote. The Ohio practice at issue in this case, the majority concluded, "follows subsection (d) to the letter": "It is undisputed that Ohio does not remove a registrant on change-of-residence grounds unless the registrant is sent and fails to mail back a return card and then fails to vote for an additional four years". But not everyone who moves notifies the post office, the state said. They get a mailed notification asking them to confirm their eligibility. If they do nothing, their names eventually fall off the list of registered voters. Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion. That law bars states from removing anyone "by reason of the person's failure to vote". "And Justice Sotomayer has not pointed to any evidence in the record that OH instituted or has carried out its program with discriminatory intent". The 1993 voter registration act was enacted "against the backdrop of substantial efforts by states to disenfranchise low-income and minority voters", she wrote.

This presented a problem for OH because the state utilizes one of the strictest removal methods in the country, according to NBC News. As part of the lawsuit, a judge previous year ordered the state to count 7,515 ballots cast by people whose names had been removed from the voter rolls.

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"This decision is validation of Ohio's efforts to clean up the voter rolls and now with the blessing (of the) nation's highest court, it can serve as a model for other states to use", Republican Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted said.

"This decision will fuel the fire of voter suppressors across the country who want to make sure their chosen candidates win reelection-no matter what the voters say".

Other reports by GizPress

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