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11 June 2018, 11:53 | Devin Moran
Supreme Court decides case on purging voter registration rolls
The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that the OH secretary of state had the right to purge voters from rolls in his state for not having voted in an election for four or more years.
The Supreme Court gave OH the green light to remove voters from the state's registration records if they have not voted in at least two years.
An Ohio voter and two interest groups said the procedure violates the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, more commonly known as the Motor Voter law.
Justice Samuel Alito delivered OH the news that it is allowed to purge thousands of stagnant voters from the state registration records.
The four liberal justices dissented. And they rejected the challengers' argument that the state's practice violates the ban on removing voters from the registration lists "solely by reason of a failure to vote", reiterating that the state "removes registrants only if they have failed to vote and have failed to respond to a notice". People who do not respond and don't vote over the next four years, including in two more federal elections, are dropped from the list of registered voters.... This term, it faces cases from Wisconsin and Maryland challenging what opponents claim were election maps drawn by state legislators for purely partisan gain.
Under Ohio rules, registered voters who fail to vote in a two-year period are targeted for eventual removal from registration rolls, even if they haven't moved and remain eligible. The 1993 voter registration act was enacted "against the backdrop of substantial efforts by states to disenfranchise low-income and minority voters", she wrote. Congress indicated that states can remove voters "who have not responded to a notice and who have not voted in 2 consecutive" federal elections, but it added that "no registrant may be removed exclusively by reason of a failure to vote".
OH state officials argued that the practice is an attempt to keep the list of registered voters up to date, removing people, for example, who have moved to another state. The court's decision essentially endorses "the very purging that Congress expressly sought to protect against", Sotomayor wrote. Indeed, the majority stressed, not only "are States allowed to remove registrants who satisfy these requirements, but federal law makes this removal mandatory". "The only question before us", Alito made clear, is whether the practice "violates federal law". He is running for lieutenant-governor this November on the Republican ticket headed by Mike DeWine, the current attorney general.
And thus Ohio's program for maintaining voter rolls is legal.
Aside from showing the importance of who does and does not get confirmed for the Supreme Court, the decision illustrates the weakness of federal voting-rights laws. A three-judge panel on that court had ruled 2-1 that Ohio's practice was illegal.
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