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Supreme Court rules that states can clean up their voting rolls

11 June 2018

Under Ohio law, people who skip voting in two consecutive elections and then ignore various mailings from the state are removed from registration rolls, reports the Columbus Dispatch.

In a 5-4 decision with the court's conservatives in the majority, the justices overturned a lower court ruling that Ohio's policy violated the National Voter Registration Act, a 1993 federal law that forbids removing voters from registration lists for failing to vote. 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. He was joined by his four conservative colleagues.

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the dissenting opinion for the liberal justices, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor also wrote her own dissent.

Said Freda Levenson, legal director at the ACLU of Ohio: "Today's decision is a blow, not just to Ohio voters, but to the democratic process".

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.

The federal law at issue had one provision indicating how states might verify an apparent change of address by return-postage-paid notice to voters, and another banning a purge on the basis of failure to vote.

OH aggressively trims its voter rolls by sending notices to people who have not voted in two years.

"A state violates the failure-to-vote clause only if it removes registrants for no reason other than their failure to vote", Justice Samuel Alito, writing the majority opinion, argued.

OH said it only uses the process after first comparing its voter lists with U.S. Postal Service lists of changed addresses, but not everyone who moves notifies the post office.

OH has sent more than 3 million notices of address confirmation since 2011, when Husted became Secretary of State.

Among those removed are Army veterans, who sued the state after being removed while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. "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".

Demos, the voting rights group that challenged Ohio's voter purge law, said in a statement that the decision "threatens the ability of voters to have their voices heard in our elections".

The SCOTUS ruling wasn't limited to the Buckeye State, as a handful of other states follow the voter purge act as well.

Adding to the tension in the case, the Trump administration reversed the position taken by the Obama administration and backed Ohio's method for purging voters.

In a tweet Monday morning, Sen.

Supreme Court rules that states can clean up their voting rolls