Supreme Court gives OK to states to clean voting rolls

Supreme Court gives OK to states to clean voting rolls

The Supreme Court gave the state of OH a decisive victory Monday, ruling the state is allowed to aggressively purge seemingly inactive voters from voting rolls - a practice civil rights groups have fought against.

Facing those sorts of issues, OH wanted to try to remove people who failed to vote in a six-year period and who failed to return a notice, figuring at that point they had probably moved and the registration was invalid.

Organizations and individuals who challenged the law said Ohio's process was illegal under federal laws that ban states from using voter inactivity to spark removal from the rolls.

The procedure "does not strike any registrant exclusively by reason of the failure to vote", Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority.

Liberal justice Sonia Sotomayor said the same in her dissenting opinion Monday.

The four dissenters (with Stephen Breyer writing the main dissent) rejected the idea that a use-it-or-lose-it approach to voting rights is acceptable under current federal law.


Democrats have accused Republicans of taking steps at the state level, including laws requiring certain types of government-issued identification, meant to suppress the vote of minorities, poor people and others who generally favor Democratic candidates.

Partisan fights over ballot access are being fought across the country. If they don't respond and don't vote in the next two general elections, they are targeted for eventual removal from registration rolls, even if they haven't moved and remain eligible. "And Justice Sotomayer has not pointed to any evidence in the record that OH instituted or has carried out its program with discriminatory intent".

"The notice in question here warns recipients that unless they take the simple and easy step of mailing back the pre-addressed, postage prepaid card - or take the equally easy step of updating their information online - their names may be removed from the voting rolls if they do not vote during the next four years", he wrote.

The justices, voting 5-4 along ideological lines, said the system was a legitimate effort to identify people who have moved away and didn't illegally penalize people for not voting. The court's decision essentially endorses "the very purging that Congress expressly sought to protect against", Sotomayor wrote. In any case, I'm sticking with my original view: the OH law pushes right to the edge of what's legal under federal law, but it doesn't go beyond. "Ohio's process is accordingly lawful".

The American Civil Liberties Union called the decision a "setback for voting rights".

Chris Carson, president of the League of Women Voters, said the Supreme Court "got this one wrong".

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