Published: Mon, June 11, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

States can purge voters who don't vote or respond to warnings

States can purge voters who don't vote or respond to warnings

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. All in all, the procedures meant someone who didn't vote for six years and who threw out the notices could be removed from the rolls.

Stuart Naifeh, senior counsel at Demos, which led the legal team challenging Ohio's voter-removing practice, cautioned against other states seeing the ruling as green light to engage in similar voter purging efforts.

Under the state law, voters who have not voted in two years are flagged and sent a confirmation notice. 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).

The plaintiffs in the case, Husted v A. Philip Randolph Institute, challenged the OH law arguing it violated the National Voter Registration Act. 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. 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. Many states over the decades had erected to voting, sometimes targeting black voters.

She argued that the ruling from the conservative justices "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".

Harmon and OH civil rights groups went to court, arguing that Ohio's practice conflicted with two federal voting laws.

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The American Civil Liberties Union called the decision a "setback for voting rights".

The case arose when U.S. Navy veteran Larry Harmon went to his local polling place in OH to vote in 2015. "If states take today's decision as a sign that they can be even more reckless and kick eligible voters off the rolls, we will fight back in the courts, the legislatures, and with our community partners across the country".

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Justice Stephen Breyer issued a dissenting opinion, which Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan - the other members on the court's liberal wing - joined.

Aside from the fact that I'd like to do away with voter registration entirely, none of this strikes me as either unreasonable or likely to change things significantly.

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