Supreme Court decides case on purging voter registration rolls

  • Supreme Court decides case on purging voter registration rolls

Supreme Court decides case on purging voter registration rolls

On a 5-4 vote that split the conservative and liberal members of the court, the justices rejected the argument that the purging practice in OH violates a federal law meant to increase the number of registered voters.

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.

Each state has a process for removing voters believed to have moved from its registration lists.

Justice Stephen Breyer dissented, joined by Justices Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan.

If the projections in the NBC report are anywhere near accurate, as many as a dozen more states will be looking at passing similar laws now that the Supremes have weighed in. "In my view, Ohio's program does just that".

OH sends a notice to registered voters who fail to cast a ballot over a two-year period.

But the Supreme Court majority said the appeals court was wrong because Ohio's process does not conflict with federal directives. He explained their decision by saying that it wasn't the court's job "to decide whether Ohio's supplemental process is the ideal method for keeping its voting rolls up to date".

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, said the ruling is a "validation" of the state's law. Judge Samuel Alito, who wrote the majority opinion, said those backing Harmon were doing so based on policy preferences, not the law. "The right to vote is not 'use it or lose it". If a voter returns the notice through prepaid mail, or responds online, the information is updated. The majority of the Supreme Court concluded that Ohio's process didn't violate the law because the failure to return a notice indicates the voter has moved and is therefore ineligible to vote. If they do not respond and do not vote over the following four years, they are removed from the rolls. OH does not run afoul of this prohibition because using non-voting to trigger the process is not the same thing as removing voters by reason of not voting.

Justice Sotomayor, in addition to joining the main dissent, also wrote separately to emphasize how voter purge schemes like Ohio's have a disproportionate impact on low-income voters and minority voters. "Ohio's system of purging voters that choose not to participate in some elections unfairly silences hundreds of thousands of voters in the state, especially people of color and the homeless".

It also means that the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, which was created to encourage greater participation in our democracy, has been significantly weakened.

"As long as I am Kentucky's Secretary of State, I will keep my promise to protect and defend every Kentuckian's right to vote, and our Board of Elections will never remove any voter from our rolls for simply not casting a ballot - period".

But Alito said OH "takes an intermediate approach".

Adding to the tension in the case, the Trump administration reversed the position taken by the Obama administration and backed Ohio's method for purging voters.

But U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco - whose office changed sides in the case after Trump was elected - said OH had the right to streamline "over-inflated" and "bloated" voter registration rolls.