Supreme Court Allows Ohio to Purge Inactive Voters

Supreme Court hands Ohio major victory rules state’s voter purge process is entirely legal

The court of appeals that struck down Ohio's voter purge process answered this question by looking to how OH determined which voters should be eligible for a purge in the first place. Samuel Alito delivered the opinion for the conservative majority in Husted v. Philip Randolph Institute that gave the state of OH - famed for its highly partisan election administration regime - great leeway in designing a purge of voter rolls after narrowly construing some confusing language in the federal motor-voter legislation (officially the National Voter Registration Act of 1993) that was created to expand voter participation.

In a five to four vote Monday, the nation's highest court ruled OH did not violate federal laws by purging inactive voters from the state's registry.

In a 5-4 decision in the closely watched voting-rights case, the high court overturned a lower court's ruling that Ohio's policy violated a 1993 federal law enacted to make it easier to register to vote. All four of the Court's Democrats joined a dissenting opinion by Justice Stephen Breyer, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a separate dissent.

Stuart Naifeh, senior counsel at Demos - a left-wing group that led the legal team challenging OH - warned that his organization would continue to "fight back in the courts" if states view the ruling as a sign they can be reckless. Republicans have argued that they are trying to promote ballot integrity and prevent voter fraud.

OH sends a notice after a voter skips a single federal election cycle.

So the state asks people who haven't voted in two years to confirm their eligibility. 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.

But Alito maintained that OH does not base its decision to remove voters "solely" on their failure to vote but also on the failure to respond to the notice from elections officials.

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.

"Today's decision could provide a road map to other states to follow Ohio's lead and to adopt aggressive rules for culling their voter rolls going forward, even with respect to folks who are still living in OH and legally eligible to vote", Vladeck said. In any case, I'm sticking with my original view: the OH law pushes right to the edge of what's legal under federal law, but it doesn't go beyond.

The Ohio program follows this to the letter.

According to Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, however, the decision not only "gets the law wrong", but also "sends the wrong message to state officials".

The case concerned Larry Harmon, a software engineer and Navy veteran who lives near Akron, Ohio. A federal appeals court had blocked the procedure for 2016, letting 7,500 state residents cast ballots even though they'd previously been struck from the rolls. A three-judge panel on that court had ruled 2-1 that Ohio's practice was illegal.

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