What the Supreme Court Voter Purge Ruling Means

12 June, 2018, 07:06 | Author: Dustin Murphy
  • ImagePeople voted in Ohio's primary election in Cincinnati last

"I am pleased that the United States Supreme Court agreed that OH was following federal law in maintaining accurate voter rolls", he said in a statement. The NVRA specifically allows states to remove, on change of residence grounds, a registered would-be voter who does not vote, who then fails to respond to a notice, and who then fails to vote in any election during the period covering the next two general federal elections.

The U.S. Supreme Court sided with the state of Ohio Monday - upholding its practice of purging people from registration rolls if they fail to vote. If the voter doesn't respond to the notice, update his address or registration information or perform an election activity, such as voting or signing a state ballot measure petition within four years, the voter's registration is canceled.

OH state officials argued that the practice is an attempt to keep the list of registered voters up to date, removing people, for example, who have moved to another state.

"A state violates the failure-to-vote clause only if it removes registrants for no reason other than their failure to vote", Justice Samuel Alito, writing the majority opinion, argued.

The Supreme Court issued a decision today in Husted v. A. Phillip Randolph Institute, a case involving Ohio's voter list maintenance policies.

Nineteen states use voter inactivity in the process of purging their databases, though only a handful make non-voting as central as OH does.

Monday's Supreme Court opinion did not deal with whatever alleged discriminatory effect Ohio's purge protocol had.

OH has used the "supplemental process" for removing ineligible voters for at least 20 years, according to the secretary of state's office. What's more, he added, the state also keeps voters on the rolls if they take nonvoting actions like filling out a voter registration form or signing a petition.


OH is perennially a battleground state in presidential elections and has given its electoral votes to the eventual victor in 28 of the last 30 elections.

OH is of particular interest nationally because it is one of the larger swing states in the country with the potential to determine the outcome of presidential elections.

Federal law prohibits removing voters simply because they failed to vote.

Said Freda Levenson, legal director at the ACLU of Ohio: "Today's decision is a blow, not just to Ohio voters, but to the democratic process".

The four liberal justices dissented. "And in doing this, OH simply follows federal law".

So it might be off to the races for a new round of voter suppression, all justified by a yet-to-be-documented risk of voter fraud, and a new burden for beleaguered voting-rights activists who must now focus on educating vulnerable communities on how to avoid or mitigate purges. When he showed up at the polls in 2015 he was told his registration had been canceled.

The majority pushed back against Justice Stephen Breyer's dissent, which was joined by Sotomayor and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan.

"Combined with the two years of nonvoting before notice is sent, that makes a total of six years of nonvoting before removal", Aliso wrote. Just last week, a federal judge in IN blocked the state's law clearing out voter rolls of those who are registered to vote out of state.

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