Published: Tue, June 12, 2018
Global | By Craig Ferguson

Opinion analysis: Justices rule for OH in voter-registration dispute

Opinion analysis: Justices rule for OH in voter-registration dispute

Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the majority opinion, said OH officials were not violating federal law with their purge policy (which, according to a federal appeals court, has resulted in 7,500 OH voters being wrongly purged).

"With the midterm election season now underway, the court's ruling demands heightened levels of vigilance as we anticipate that officials will read this ruling as a green light for loosely purging the registration rolls in their community", said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. "This is a voter suppression campaign run out of the White House by President Trump, who has actively worked to undermine faith in American democracy". In it, she said that friend-of-the-court briefs in the case had shown how the OH system "has disproportionately affected minority, low-income, disabled, and veteran voters". If they do not respond to the notice, and if they fail to vote for another two years, their registrations are canceled.

The dissenters included Associate Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, and Elena Kagan.

This presented a problem for OH because the state utilizes one of the strictest removal methods in the country, according to NBC News.

Under Ohio rules, registered voters who fail to vote in a two-year period are targeted for eventual removal from registration rolls, even if they haven't moved and remain eligible. He concluded that the OH system didn't violate the NVRA's failure-to-vote language since the state also sent the written mailers. And they rejected the challengers' argument that the state's practice violates the ban on removing voters from the registration lists "solely by reason of a failure to vote", reiterating that the state "removes registrants only if they have failed to vote and have failed to respond to a notice".

Failure to cast a ballot for two years triggers Ohio's removal process.

In a five to four vote Monday, the nation's highest court ruled OH did not violate federal laws by purging inactive voters from the state's registry.

Justice Samuel Alito delivered OH the news that it is allowed to purge thousands of stagnant voters from the state registration records.

Republican President Donald Trump's administration backed OH, reversing the stance taken by Democratic former President Barack Obama's administration against the policy, and welcomed the ruling.

ACLU voting rights attorney Dale Ho pointed out on Monday's teleconference call that there was already another anti-voter purge lawsuit underway that includes an issue not addressed in the OH case. Election administrators constantly update their voter rolls to ensure that no one who has moved or died remains active.

A 2016 Reuters analysis found roughly twice the rate of voter purging in Democratic-leaning neighborhoods in Ohio's three largest counties as in Republican-leaning neighborhoods. Apparently I'm getting better at this Supreme Court prediction stuff!

Voting-rights groups led by the Ohio-based A. Philip Randolph Institute had challenged Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted's (R) process of purging hundreds of thousands of voters.

"Democracy suffers when laws make it harder for USA citizens to vote", top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said.

One of the lead plaintiffs was U.S. Navy veteran Larry Harmon, who was blocked from voting in a 2015 marijuana-legalization initiative.

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