Supreme Court Sides With Ohio's Voter-Purge Law

Advocates fear court decision on Ohio could pave the way for more voter purges

The Supreme Court on Monday upheld an OH practice of purging voters from the state's rolls, leaving voting rights advocates afraid that other states could end registration for hundreds of thousands of voters who sit out as little as one federal election.

In a 5-4 decision with the court's conservatives in the majority, the justices overturned a lower court ruling that Ohio's policy violated the National Voter Registration Act, a 1993 federal law that forbids removing voters from registration lists for failing to vote. But it's possible the number is much greater because Ohio's 88 counties did not uniformly remove voters or report that action.

Half a dozen other states have similar practices.

Election officials in the state send address confirmation notices to voters who have not cast ballots for at least two years.

Responding to claims the court upheld a discriminatory process, Alito wrote: "The NVRA prohibits state programs that are discriminatory, but respondents did not assert a claim under that provision".

"The Supreme Court got this one wrong".

The Supreme Court said that's allowed under the 1993 "motor voter" law.

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde, the Democratic candidate for Ohio Secretary of State, said in a statement that she was "deeply disappointed in this ruling" and urged Husted to "act with restraint".

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Justice Samuel Alito, writing the majority opinion, says OH is complying with the 1993 National Voter Registration Act by maintaining its voter lists. It involves a politically charged topic - whether a state's effort to make it harder to vote should be permitted - as well as a not-especially-clear statute.

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. OH passed a law a few years ago which allows the state to delete residents from the voter rolls if they fail to vote over a certain period of time.

The administration of former president Barack Obama had opposed Ohio's process of purging voters, but Donald Trump's administration threw its support behind the midwestern state.

This presented a problem for OH because the state utilizes one of the strictest removal methods in the country, according to NBC News.

Alito responded: "Justice Sotomayor's dissent says nothing about what is relevant in this case - namely, the language of the NVRA", adding that she "has not pointed to any evidence in the record that OH instituted or has carried out its program with discriminatory intent". Justice Stephen Breyer penned an 18-page dissent for the liberal wing of the court.

After voting in the 2008 presidential election, Harmon opted not to vote in 2009 or 2010. In Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, the five ultra-conservatives upheld a voter suppression scheme in OH of the type that Congress has prohibited.

"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". "It does not", Alito said.

The question for the court was whether failing to vote could be the initial trigger leading to removal.

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