Supreme Court allows Ohio and other state voter purges

Neil Gorsuch Casts the Deciding Vote Upholding Ohio’s Voter Purge

The court's five conservative justices voted in the majority, with the court's four liberals dissenting. The conservative majority reversed an appeals court decision against Ohio's system.

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

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 on Monday upheld Ohio's "use it or lose it" practice of cleaning up its voter rolls.

Under the state law, voters who have not voted in two years are flagged and sent a confirmation notice.

Voters who then fail to respond to the notice and fail to vote within the next two years are removed from the rolls. 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.

A Reuters study in 2016 found that at least 144,000 people were removed from the voting rolls in recent years in Ohio's three largest counties, which are home to Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus. If they do, or if they show up to vote over the next four years, voters remain registered.

"Thus, I think it fair to assume (because of the human tendency not to send back cards received in the mail, confirmed strongly by the actual numbers in this record) the following: In respect to change of residence, the failure of more than 1 million OH voters to respond to forwardable notices (the vast majority of those sent) shows nothing at all that is statutorily significant", Breyer wrote.

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Alito, in his majority opinion, brushed off the argument that Ohio's approach was not a reliable indicator that the voters had moved.

"Neither the majority nor OH meaningfully dispute that the Supplemental Process disproportionately burdens these communities", she wrote.

In a separate dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said Congress enacted the voter registration law "against the backdrop of substantial efforts by states to disenfranchise low-income and minority voters".

"Communities that are disproportionately affected by unnecessarily harsh registration laws should not tolerate efforts to marginalize their influence in the political process, nor should allies who recognize blatant unfairness stand idly by", she wrote.

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.

OH officials were appealing the decision of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which had sided with OH resident Larry Harmon, a veteran and computer consultant who was purged from the polls in the state process, and the other two groups.

"The fight does not stop here", he declared.

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