U.S. Supreme Court allows purges of state voter rolls
U.S. Supreme Court allows purges of state voter rolls
Supreme Court decides case on purging voter registration rolls
11 June, 2018, 21:37
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.
Samuel Alito delivered the opinion for the conservative majority in Husted v. Philip Randolph Institute that gave the state of OH - famed for its highly partisan election administration regime - great leeway in designing a purge of voter rolls after narrowly construing some confusing language in the federal motor-voter legislation (officially the National Voter Registration Act of 1993) that was created to expand voter participation.
Under the state law, voters who have not voted in two years are flagged and sent a confirmation notice. If they do not respond and do not vote over the following four years, they are removed from the rolls.
The Ohio practice at issue in this case, the majority concluded, "follows subsection (d) to the letter": "It is undisputed that Ohio 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". More than half the voters in OH fail to cast a ballot over a two-year period, the group said, and those who receive the state's notices simply throw them away. "It does not", Justice Alito wrote.
Justice Stephen Breyer, writing in dissent, said the 1993 law prohibits removing someone from the voting rolls "by reason of the person's failure to vote".
She said the majority's opinion "entirely ignores the history of voter suppression against which the NVRA was enacted and upholds a program that appears to further the very disenfranchisement of minority and low-income voters that Congress set out to eradicate".
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. The decision could mean that more states will adopt similar laws to trim their voter rolls, particularly when (as the majority observed today) roughly one in eight voter registrations is "either invalid or significantly inaccurate". 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.
The Trump administration supported Ohio's voter purge. 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".
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