Supreme Court OKs Ohio Voter Purge Law

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In their 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court determined that OH was in compliance with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.

In a 5-4 decision, the court sided with Ohio's practice of removing voters from the registration rolls after a certain period of inactivity; supporting the so-called "Use it or Lose it" rule.

Justice Samuel Alito says that OH is complying with the 1993 National Voter Registration Act.

Liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, in a dissent joined by the other liberal justices, said, "Using a registrant's failure to vote is not a reasonable method for identifying voters whose registrations are likely invalid". Republicans say voter rolls need scrutiny to prevent fraud and promote ballot integrity, while Democrats insist the efforts are meant to reduce turnout from Democratic-leaning groups such as racial minorities. This term, it faces cases from Wisconsin and Maryland challenging what opponents claim were election maps drawn by state legislators for purely partisan gain.

The Ohio program follows this to the letter.

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

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Ohio, often a bellwether in national elections, has removed thousands of people who don't vote for two years, don't return warning notices, and then don't vote for another four years.

Rick Hasen, an election law expert at UC-Irvine, told NBC: "You'll see more red states making it easier to drop people from the voter registration rolls". And there was no doubt that OH - which has purged 2 million voters since 2011 on various pretexts - would aggressively pursue whatever avenues the courts allowed for restricting the franchise, which happens to benefit the party that has run Ohio's electoral machinery during this period.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati in 2016 blocked Ohio's policy, ruling that it ran afoul of the 1993 law. "The only question before us is whether it violates federal law".

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) described the court ruling as a "setback for voting rights".

OH has used voters' inactivity to trigger the removal process since 1994, although groups representing voters did not sue the Republican secretary of state, Jon Husted, until 2016. A three-judge panel on that court had ruled 2-1 that Ohio's practice was illegal.

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