Published: Mon, June 11, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Supreme Court allows Ohio, other state voter purges

Supreme Court allows Ohio, other state voter purges

The Supreme Court gave OH the green light to remove voters from the state's registration records if they have not voted in at least two years. And they rejected the challengers' argument that the state's practice violates the ban on removing voters from the registration lists "solely by reason of a failure to vote", reiterating that the state "removes registrants only if they have failed to vote and have failed to respond to a notice". The first law, the National Voter Registration Act, was enacted in 1993 to advance two goals: Making it easier for would-be voters to register while at the same time guaranteeing "accurate and current" registration lists.

If they do confirm they're eligible to vote, or if they show up to vote over the next four years, voters remain registered.

At least a dozen other politically conservative states said they would adopt a similar practice if OH prevailed, as a way of keeping their voter registration lists accurate and up to date.

Justice Stephen Breyer issued a dissenting opinion, which Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan - the other members on the court's liberal wing - joined. 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.... "It does not", Justice Alito wrote. "In my view, Ohio's program does just that".

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The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati in 2016 blocked Ohio's policy, ruling that it ran afoul of the 1993 law. But on the other hand, that's the kind of law that was in place for jurisdictions subject to the pre-clearance provisions of the Voting Right Acts of 1965 (whereby suspicious changes in voting procedures had to be approved in advance by the Justice Department) until the Supreme Court gutted it in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision.

"With the midterm election season now underway, the court's ruling demands heightened levels of vigilance as we anticipate that officials will read this ruling as a green light for loosely purging the registration rolls in their community", said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under 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.

Sotomayor, meanwhile, focused on the populations who, according to briefs filed in the case stand to be most likely to be purged under Ohio's system: minority, low-income, disabled, and veteran voters.

Husted called the decision "a victory for electoral integrity". A three-judge panel on that court had ruled 2-1 that Ohio's practice was illegal.

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