Supreme Court gives OK to states to clean voting rolls

Jun 13, 2018, 13:43
Supreme Court gives OK to states to clean voting rolls

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday upheld Ohio's method of removing voters who don't cast ballots for six consecutive years.

The justices are rejecting, by a 5-4 vote Monday, arguments that the practice violates a federal law meant to increase the ranks of registered voters.

Minnesota is also is part of a secure system that allows elections officials to compare notes, and discover if a voter has moved and may be simultaneously registered in two states.

The ruling was 5-4, with the court's conservative justices in the majority, while the four liberal justices dissented.

The SCOTUS ruling wasn't limited to the Buckeye State, as a handful of other states follow the voter purge act as well.

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Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump said he would nominate Eric Murphy, the OH lawyer who argued the case on the state's behalf, to a seat on the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

"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.

OH is already encouraging other states to follow its lead.

"This case presents a question of statutory interpretation, not a question of policy", Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority, saying Ohio's practice is not unconstitutional.

In his own statement, Husted said he hoped the ruling would give other states a path toward purging duplicate or obsolete registrations.

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Minnesota voters needn't worry about having their names purged from voter registration rolls, even if the nation's highest court says it's OK. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven't voted, Ohio's purge is slightly different. Until last year, OR policies allowed voters to be labeled "inactive" if they didn't update their voter registrations OR vote in at least five years.

If voters do not reply to the mailing, they are put on an inactive roll, but are still allowed to vote. "First with the Voting Rights Act and today with giving the green light to an atrocious use-it-or-lose-it approach to voter registration".

It is no surprise the case comes from OH, which has the nation's strictest law on removing voters and is a closely divided state nearly always seen as a battleground in national politics. Justice Stephen Breyer penned an 18-page dissent for the liberal wing of the court.

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". The current DOJ supported OH in the case, while under President Barack Obama the department had argued that the state was unlawfully seeking to strip eligible voters from the rolls. If the voters don't respond to the mailers, and don't engage in any voter activity - which includes, voting, updating one's voter registration info, or participating in voter petitions - in the next two federal election cycles, they are removed from the rolls. OH sent him a notice, but Harmon said he does not remember receiving it. The process is triggered by a failure to vote. His case was backed by 12 generally Democratic-leaning states (pdf, p.33-35), and was opposed by the Trump administration and 17 typically Republican states (pdf, p.21-22).

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