Voters Who Skip Elections Can Be Purged From Rolls

Supreme Court decides case on purging voter registration rolls

Supreme Court decides case on purging voter registration rolls

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.

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. However, congressional legislation-the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA, or "Motor-Voter law") as modified by the Help America Vote Act-prohibits roll maintenance processes that result in striking people from the voter rolls by reason of their not voting in past elections. Voters are not notified when their registration is removed. All four liberal justices dissented, and top Democrats said the decision will boost what they called Republican voter-suppression efforts.

Half a dozen other states have similar practices. "You need something more than just differential stats", Levitt, a former top official in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, said in a telephone interview with TPM. "In Oregon, we believe that a registered voter should not lose their voting rights exclusively because they haven't participated recently", he said Monday in a news release. "It does not", Justice Alito wrote. In their 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court determined that OH was in compliance with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.

OH is perennially a battleground state in presidential elections and has given its electoral votes to the eventual victor in 28 of the last 30 elections. According to briefs in the case, Harmon "expressed his dissatisfaction with the candidates by exercising his right not to vote".

Breyer then went through a painstakingly detailed, step-by-step textual analysis of what steps Congress has said states must take before purging a voter, and under what conditions.

Conservatives on the Supreme Court on Monday upheld Ohio's method of purging voters from the rolls after they miss elections. As the majority (per Justice Alito) noted, it is estimated that roughly one in eight voter registrations is "either invalid or significantly inaccurate" and that 2.75 million people are registered to vote in more than one state.

If voters do not reply to the mailing, they are put on an inactive roll, but are still allowed to vote. The 1993 voter registration act was enacted "against the backdrop of substantial efforts by states to disenfranchise low-income and minority voters", she wrote. It involves a dizzying web of federal legal provisions governing how states may - and, in some cases, must - maintain their voter registration laws.




Justice Sotomayor wrote a separate dissent to complain that the Court's decision will have a disproportionate effect on the poor, the elderly, and minorities.

Breyer's dissent was also joined by Sotomayor, along with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan.

Alito said that the two factors show that OH "does not strike any registrant exclusively by reason of the failure to vote".

But Alito said OH "takes an intermediate approach".

Republican President Donald Trump's administration backed OH, reversing the stance taken by Democratic former President Barack Obama's administration against the policy, and welcomed the ruling.

This case, like many others, should never even have been in court, allowing wayward judges and the ACLU to lock up a commonsense law for several years and election cycles. The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute has undermined that founding principle.

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