U.S. Supreme Court Rules Ohio Can Purge Inactive Voters From Rolls

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The United States Supreme Court ruled Monday, by a five-to-four margin, that elections officials in OH have the power to purge voter rolls of the names of voters who've missed two straight general elections, if they're notified.

In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled OH could continue to remove individuals from voter rolls if they had not voted in two federal elections and have not responded to a confirmation notice or update their registration. If they don't, their name is removed.

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

The High Court's decision applies to OH and six other states with similar systems - Pennsylvania, Georgia, Oregon, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Montana.

In the past, the Justice Department has opposed Ohio's process as inconsistent with federal law.

OH sends notices to registered voters who have not voted in a two-year period.

And, sure enough, the Supreme Court split entirely along party lines in Husted.

"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.

"The right to vote is the most sacred right we have as citizens".

Kander, who is eyeing a 2020 presidential bid, said the Supreme Court's decision highlights the need for groups like his to spotlight voter purges, which he said are highly likely to sweep up eligible voters whose registrations ought not be canceled.

The supplemental process enables states to purge names from federal voting rolls after individuals don't vote within a two year period and also fail to respond to a notice from the government over the next four years. As part of the lawsuit, a judge past year ordered the state to count 7,515 ballots cast by people whose names had been removed from the voter rolls. At least twelve other conservative states said they would follow Ohio's lead if it prevailed, NBC reports.

Civil liberties groups challenged the state's program, claiming it violated the National Voter Registration Act.

The federal law at issue had one provision indicating how states might verify an apparent change of address by return-postage-paid notice to voters, and another banning a purge on the basis of failure to vote. "Ohio's system of purging voters that choose not to participate in some elections unfairly silences hundreds of thousands of voters in the state, especially people of color and the homeless".

The four liberal justices dissented.

In September 2016, a federal appeals court ruled against OH, saying that 7,515 ballots that had been struck could be cast in the that fall's election.

Husted said that OH wants to "make it easy to vote and hard to cheat". Justice Samuel Alito, in an opinion joined by the other four conservatives on the court, wrote that OH had followed the procedure laid out in the NVRA "to the letter". Even if there were a case or two, that's a tiny fraction of the more than 7,500 OH voters who went to the polls in 2016 and were turned away because they had been purged. The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute has undermined that founding principle. Failing to vote is not allowed as the trigger for notices, he argued.

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