Supreme Court allows Ohio voter purge

Wiki Media

In a 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court gave OH a victory Monday in a fight over the state's method for removing people from the voter rolls, a practice that civil rights groups said discourages minority turnout.

Opponents of Ohio's voter purge practice said federal law prohibits citizens from being penalized just for the failure to vote.

The ruling was 5-4, with the court's conservative justices in the majority, while the four liberal justices dissented. Georgia and 16 other states filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Ohio. And, if that "one" consists of a failure to vote, then Ohio's program also fails to make the requisite "reasonable effort" to comply with subsection (a)'s statutory mandate.

The four dissenters (with Stephen Breyer writing the main dissent) rejected the idea that a use-it-or-lose-it approach to voting rights is acceptable under current federal law. "It does not", Justice Alito wrote.

Chris Carson, president of the League of Women Voters, said the Supreme Court "got this one wrong".

OH is already encouraging other states to follow its lead.

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The dissent by Justice Stephen Breyer, which traced the long history of state laws restricting the right to vote, argued that the OH process "erects needless hurdles to voting of the kind Congress sought to eliminate by enacting the Registration Act".

"Our democracy rests on the ability of all individuals, regardless of race, income, or status, to exercise their right to vote", Sotomayor wrote. If a voter returns the notice through prepaid mail, or responds online, the information is updated. "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".

The state checks voter rolls against several databases, including the U.S. Postal Service's national change of address database and state death records, to remove voters who have moved out of state or died.

That act prevents states from canceling voter registrations exclusively because those registered do not show up to vote. The majority found that the state was in compliance with the law in removing voters in this fashion.

Justice Breyer wrote a dissent that, as Justice Alito points out, has lots to do with his disagreement with Congress about the wisdom of reliance on the returning a card, and little to do with the law Congress passed. The case is Husted v. Phillip Randolph Institute. He voted in the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections but did not vote in 2012, saying he was unimpressed by the candidates. "The majority of States have found ways to maintain accurate voter rolls without initiating removal processes based exclusively on an individual's failure to vote". Alito said OH skirts that prohibition by sending voters the postcard, to which they can respond before their registrations are canceled. They said Ohio's policy is part of a larger campaign to disenfranchise voters - especially minorities and those disproportionately likely to oppose President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: "Excitement in the air" ahead of Kim meeting Trump doubles down on criticism of EU, Canada Merkel: EU will retaliate against Trump tariffs MORE.

The question for the court was whether failing to vote could be the initial trigger leading to removal.

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