Published: Wed, January 10, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Supreme Court appears likely to approve Ohio's voter purging

Supreme Court appears likely to approve Ohio's voter purging

On Wednesday, the Court will hear oral arguments in his case, which challenges Ohio's policy of removing people from its voter rolls for inactivity.

A federal appeals court ruled for the state, concluding that roughly 7,500 OH voters - in a state that's perennially a presidential battleground - were wrongly purged from the list in the 2016 election. "We are fighting in every state to protect and expand the right to vote".

Ho says says that Georgia, Montana, Oregon, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma also have a culling process that's triggered by inactivity, but Ohio's two-year trigger is the shortest of any state.

"You have a right not to vote", said Sonia Sotomayor.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the OH procedure would have a disproportionate impact on racial minorities and homeless people and was part of a broader movement that has reduced turnout in parts of the state.

Justice Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts asked Smith to suggest more appropriate criteria to remove voters from the rolls. "What we're talking about are the best tools to implement that objective".

The Supreme Court hinted it may allow states more flexibility to remove registered voters from state rolls during a lively argument on Wednesday.

If you live in OH, your failure to vote - for whatever reason - for two years would have triggered a process that could have resulted in your being purged from the state's voter rolls.

The left-leaning justice, whose family is Puerto Rican, underscored that Ohio's purging of voter lists had mostly affected people from ethnic minorities and from the poorer segments of society.

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Under the disputed procedure, OH mails notices to people who haven't voted in two years, asking them to confirm that they still live at that address. Because a large proportion of voters only vote in presidential years, he said they have to miss just one presidential election to be kicked off its rolls.

The case has become a proxy for the highly partisan fight over the country's election rules. "It's evidentiary, it's not ground for removal itself", Alito told the plaintiffs.

Prof. Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California at Irvine, says if the court sides with OH, "you'll see more red states making it easier to drop people from the voter registration rolls, and it's going to continue what I call the voting wars between the parties". Sotomayor questioned whether sending an address notification is a "reasonable" way of determining that someone has moved and she asked if the process might help to disenfranchise voters who often wait in line for very long periods.

Activists rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court ahead of arguments in a key voting rights case involving a challenge to the OhioÕs policy of purging infrequent voters from voter registration rolls, in Washington, U.S., January 10, 2018.

"It doesn't tell them nothing", he said.

According to The Nation, from 2011 to 2016, OH - a state with more than 11 million residents - purged 840,000 voters from its voter rolls for such voting inactivity. "I confess to doing that sometimes". He said the vast majority of other states find ways to make sure their voter lists are up to date by using tax records, returned mail or DMV change-of-address forms to determine whether someone may have moved. His case is now before the US Supreme Court.

Voting rights groups have charged it is a veiled attempt at voter suppression. The process has been in place for more than 20 years and has been administered the same way by both Republican and Democratic secretaries of state, says Husted.

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. He claimed no recollection of receiving a confirmation notice from the state and he later sued, along with two public interest groups, the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the A. Philip Randolph Institute.

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