What the Supreme Court Voter Purge Ruling Means

Supreme Court decides case on purging voter registration rolls

Simon said that registered voters who skip elections for four straight years stay on the rolls, but are classified as "inactive" voters. "Ohio simply treats the failure to return a notice and the failure to vote as evidence that a registrant has moved, not as a ground for removal".

The case, Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, was taken to the high court after the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of OH resident Larry Harmon, who'd been removed from the state's registered voters list.

An Ohio appeals court ruled in Harmon's favor in 2016, saying, as The New York Times notes, "Ohio had violated the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 by using the failure to vote as a "trigger" for sending the notices". OH sent him a notice, but Harmon said he does not remember receiving it. His case was backed by 12 generally Democratic-leaning states (pdf, p.33-35), and was opposed by the Trump administration and 17 typically Republican states (pdf, p.21-22).

What's more, they said, they anxious that the ruling now gives other states a blueprint from which to conduct their own voter purges. A Philip Randolph Institute, a challenge to Ohio's voter roll purges. Hasen said the lawsuit the court resolved Monday did not involve allegations of discrimination against minority voters, and he suggested the laws in OH and other states could be vulnerable to a legal challenge on those grounds. Republicans are calling for stepped-up efforts to prevent voter fraud, while Democrats say that push is a thinly veiled campaign to stop liberals and minorities from casting ballots. "You need something more than just differential stats", Levitt, a former top official in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, said in a telephone interview with TPM. But it also calls on states to keep accurate rolls and allows them to come up with their own systems for removing voters believed to have moved or died.

Six states have similar laws, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

And thus Ohio's program for maintaining voter rolls is legal.

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The Supreme Court reversed the appeals court decision, with a majority concluding that Congress and OH had included the process of sending back such a card in federal laws.

Voter purges are not uncommon, even in states led by Democrats. "Hundreds of thousands of voters, maybe more, could be effectively shut out of elections, without their knowledge that are removed, or purged from the voter rolls".

But in recent years, some purges have been viewed through a more partisan lens. And Justice Sonia Sotomayor, writing only for herself, warned that those who support voting rights should be vigilant in the wake of the court's decision.

Chris Carson, president of the League of Women Voters of the United States, put it bluntly: "The Supreme Court got this one wrong". 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. If it finds voters have moved, they are contacted by voter registration, he said.

Sotomayor said Monday's decision would force minority and low-income voters to be "more proactive and vigilant" in holding onto their voting rights.

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