Supreme Court Allows Ohio to Purge Inactive Voters

13 June, 2018, 13:42 | Author: Kim Reid
  • Supreme Court decides case on purging voter registration rolls

Federal law prohibits removing voters simply because they failed to vote.

If voters do not reply to the mailing, they are put on an inactive roll, but are still allowed to vote. After two years of not voting the state sends them a notification. The state was sued after the 2015 election, when those who had not voted since Barack Obama was elected president in 2008 discovered they no longer were registered.

Richard Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California at Irvine, called the case "a close question of statutory interpretation". But Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, said the policy did not violate the National Voter Registration Act. Dale Ho, director of the Voting Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) predicted dire results for voting rights.

Supreme Court decides case on purging voter registration rolls
5-4 SCOTUS Ruling Threatens Voting Rights, Affirms Ohio Voter Purge Rule Which Discourages Minority Turnout

"Communities that are disproportionately affected by unnecessarily harsh registration laws should not tolerate efforts to marginalize their influence in the political process, nor should allies who recognize blatant unfairness stand idly by", Sotomayor wrote.

But Alito maintained that OH does not base its decision to remove voters "solely" on their failure to vote but also on the failure to respond to the notice from elections officials. According to briefs in the case, Harmon "expressed his dissatisfaction with the candidates by exercising his right not to vote".

The case came about when Larry Harmon challenged the process arguing that he was removed from the rolls even though he had not moved, but rather had opted not to vote in 2009 and 2010.

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Failing to vote can lead to getting knocked off voter registration rolls, a divided Supreme Court ruled Monday in a decision that likely will help Republicans and harm Democrats. The state appealed to the Supreme Court.

Taken as a whole, this welter of provisions could plausibly be read in the way Justice Samuel Alito does on behalf of the Courts' Republicans - as an instruction manual to carry out the sort of voter purge that OH used in this case. If after two years an individual has not cast a vote, they receive a notice.

Alito was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch.

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In a related development, the State Board of Elections announced Monday afternoon they had reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice and conservative legal group Judicial Watch, regarding Kentucky's maintenance of voter rolls.

After a Florida voter is placed on inactive status, he or she can be removed, or moved to ineligible status, after not updating their record, asking for a mail ballot or not voting in two presidential elections after being declared inactive. The more obvious methods of disenfranchisement were addressed in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but Congress in 1993 passed the Motor Voter law to address other methods.

"Today's decision is a victory for election integrity, and a defeat for those who use the federal court system to make election law across the country", Husted said.

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Liberal groups described the ruling as dire. But on the other hand, that's the kind of law that was in place for jurisdictions subject to the pre-clearance provisions of the Voting Right Acts of 1965 (whereby suspicious changes in voting procedures had to be approved in advance by the Justice Department) until the Supreme Court gutted it in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision. "In Ohio, and still in most states, that's not the case", Simon explained.

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