Supreme Court allows Ohio, other state voter purges

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito writing for the majority in the 5-4 decision said Ohio's disputed process of purging voters who may have moved met the requirements of the National Voter Registration Act. The decision came under immediate critici

The court, in the 5-4 ruling, also seemed to side with those who say the potential for voting fraud exists, with Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. citing statistics that 2.75 million people are registered to vote in more than one state, and some 24 million names on voting lists are inaccurate.

The Supreme Court on Monday approved of Ohio's voter purge protocol of removing people from the rolls if they sit out six years of federal elections and fail to return a card mailed to them by the state confirming their residency. The justices are rejecting, by a 5-4 vote on Monday arguments that the practice violates a federal law that was meant to increase the ranks of registered voters. Voters who then fail to respond to the notice and vote within the next two years are removed from the rolls.

Justice Samuel Alito said for the court that OH is complying with the 1993 National Voter Registration Act.

The challengers criticized what they called Ohio's "use it or lose it" policy that they said violated registered voters' right to choose when to vote, noting that some voters do not cast a ballot when they do not support any of the candidates running. Anyone who doesn't respond or vote within the next four years is deregistered.

The majority pushed back against Justice Stephen Breyer's dissent, which was joined by Sotomayor and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan.

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"It is undisputed that OH does not remove a registrant on change-of-residence grounds unless the registrant is sent and fails to mail back a return card and then fails to vote for an additional four years", Alito wrote. "In my view, Ohio's program does just that". The court's decision essentially endorses "the very purging that Congress expressly sought to protect against", Sotomayor wrote.

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. Groups including the ACLU challenged the practice, but the Supreme Court's five conservative justices sided with Ohio. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said that "today's decision empowers OH to further strip away the right to vote for thousands of Ohioans, threatening the integrity of our state's election process".

The ruling revives the battleground state's process for managing its voter rolls after an appeals court invalidated it in 2016.

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.

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.

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