Supreme Court Allows Ohio to Purge Inactive Voters

Sotomayor dissent tackles impact of Ohio ruling on minority voters

Dimitrios Kambouris Getty Images Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the dissenting opinion

The US Supreme Court sided with the OH in a case over whether or not the state has the right to cull voters from registers if they go too long without casting a ballot.

WASHINGTON-The Supreme Court on Monday upheld OH election rules that allow the cancellation of voter registrations for citizens who haven't voted in two years and don't confirm their eligibility.

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 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.

The ruling could be a major victory for Republicans, who tend to benefit from lower voter turnout, and a stinging loss for Democrats, who do best in high-turnout elections. 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.

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The Ohio program follows this to the letter.

Rick Hasen, an election law expert at UC-Irvine, told NBC: "You'll see more red states making it easier to drop people from the voter registration rolls". The requirement is still on the books for state- and local-office elections - Arizona previously lost a Supreme Court fight to implement it in federal elections - but state election officials agreed last week to allow people who have previously provided proof of citizenship at the DMV to vote without being required to show... OH wanted to initiate a purge that sent notices to voters if they missed voting for just two years, arguing that it was the subsequent failure to respond to multiple notices that triggered their removal, not failure to vote. The court's decision essentially endorses "the very purging that Congress expressly sought to protect against", Sotomayor wrote.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) described the court ruling as a "setback for voting rights". As part of the lawsuit, a judge a year ago ordered the state to count 7,515 ballots cast by people whose names had been removed from the voter rolls.

The case is Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, 16-980.

"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", added Sotomayor, the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice.

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