U.S. Supreme Court Backs States’ Voter-Purge Efforts
12 June, 2018, 02:48 | Author: Sheila Harris
In a 5-4 decision by Justice Samuel Alito, the Supreme Court ruled Monday that OH and other states are allowed to purge voters from their rolls who are inactive or do not respond to requests to confirm their residency.
Writing for the majority, conservative Justice Samuel Alito said the court was not deciding whether Ohio's policy "is the ideal method for keeping its voting rolls up to date". Thankfully, today the Supreme Court reined in one of those lower court opinions, but the broader threat to state powers over election integrity remains strong.
The justices rejected arguments that practices by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted violate a federal law meant to increase the ranks of registered voters.
The majority pushed back against Justice Stephen Breyer's dissent, which was joined by Sotomayor and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan.
"If states take today's decision as a sign that they can be even more reckless and kick eligible voters off the rolls, we will fight back in the courts, the legislatures and with our community partners across the country", Demos attorney Stuart Naifeh said. "This is a voter suppression campaign run out of the White House by President Trump, who has actively worked to undermine faith in American democracy". Congress indicated that states can remove voters "who have not responded to a notice and who have not voted in 2 consecutive" federal elections, but it added that "no registrant may be removed exclusively by reason of a failure to vote".
The state said it only uses the disputed process after first comparing its voter lists with a U.S. Postal Service list of people who have reported a change of address.
The state argued that the policy was needed to keep voting rolls current, clearing out people who have moved away or died. They get a mailed notification asking them to confirm their eligibility. Anyone who doesn't respond or vote within the next four years is deregistered.
OH sends a notice after a voter skips a single federal election cycle.
The Ohio program follows this to the letter.
The court's decision essentially endorses "the very purging that Congress expressly sought to protect against", Sotomayor wrote. Dale Ho, director of the Voting Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) predicted dire results for voting rights.
"We are now only 5 months from our next federal election and any rush now to remove a backlog of up to 589,000 voters that he has marked for purging will be extremely disruptive and unfair to OH voters", Clyde wrote.
OH has used voters' inactivity to trigger the removal process since 1994, although groups representing voters did not sue the Republican secretary of state, Jon Husted, until 2016.
In September 2016, a federal appeals court ruled against OH, saying that 7,515 ballots that had been struck could be cast in the that fall's election.
The Trump administration supported Ohio's voter purge.
The case arose when U.S. Navy veteran Larry Harmon went to his local polling place in OH to vote in 2015.
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