Supreme Court rules that states can clean up their voting rolls

The law upheld by a 5-4 court opinion allows Ohio officials to take voters off the rolls if they don’t vote or respond to notices for a total of six years

In their 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court determined that OH was in compliance with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. OH wanted to initiate a purge that sent notices to voters if they missed voting for just two years, arguing that it was the subsequent failure to respond to multiple notices that triggered their removal, not failure to vote. Voting rights activists rallied to oppose voter roll purges as the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the Husted v.

Under Ohio's policy, if registered voters miss voting for two years, they are sent registration confirmation notices.

In delivering the opinion of the court, Justice Samuel Alito said the law does not violate that clause or any other provision of the NRVA. He was joined by his four conservative colleagues.

The four liberal justices dissented.

"Voters have been struck from the rolls in Democratic-leaning neighborhoods at roughly twice the rate as in Republican neighborhoods", the study found. "Neighborhoods that have a high proportion of poor, African-American residents are hit the hardest". More than half the voters in OH fail to cast a ballot over a two-year period, the group said, and those who receive the state's notices simply throw them away. All in all, the procedures meant someone who didn't vote for six years and who threw out the notices could be removed from the rolls. They get a mailed notification asking them to confirm their eligibility. If they do, or if they show up to vote over the next four years, voters remain registered. If they do nothing, their names eventually fall off the list of registered voters.

For the five justices in the majority - Alito, along with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch - the extent to which Ohio's practice hews to subsection (d) was enough.

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

The ruling, she argued, "ignores the long history of purge programs in our country which have been used to unfairly and disproportionately target minority voters". The court's decision essentially endorses "the very purging that Congress expressly sought to protect against", Sotomayor wrote.

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 only question before us is whether it violates federal law. In 2016, an appeals court ruled Ohio's process violated the National Voting Rights Act of 1993 and the Help America Vote Act of 2002. As part of the lawsuit, a judge a year ago ordered the state to count 7,515 ballots cast by people whose names had been removed from the voter rolls.

Husted called the decision "a victory for electoral integrity". He is running for lieutenant-governor this November on the Republican ticket headed by Mike DeWine, the current attorney general.

"We are now only 5 months from our next federal election and any rush now to remove a backlog of up to 589,000 voters that he has marked for purging will be extremely disruptive and unfair to OH voters", Clyde wrote.

Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump said he would nominate Eric Murphy, the OH lawyer who argued the case on the state's behalf, to a seat on the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

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