Supreme Court gives OK to states to clean voting rolls


"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".

In a 5-4 decision in the closely watched voting-rights case, the high court overturned a lower court's ruling that Ohio's policy violated a 1993 federal law enacted to make it easier to register to vote. A handful of other states also use voters' inactivity to trigger processes that could lead to their removal from the voting rolls. The court's four liberal justices dissented.

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.

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. It involves a dizzying web of federal legal provisions governing how states may - and, in some cases, must - maintain their voter registration laws.

Stuart Naifeh, senior counsel at Demos - a left-wing group that led the legal team challenging OH - warned that his organization would continue to "fight back in the courts" if states view the ruling as a sign they can be reckless.

Now, Sotomayor wrote, advocates for disadvantaged voters will need to "be even more proactive and vigilant in holding their States accountable and working to dismantle the obstacles they face in exercising the fundamental right to vote".

Ohio's contested voter purge stems from an inoffensive requirement in federal law that states have to make an effort to keep their voter rolls in good shape by removing people who have moved or died.

The US Supreme Court has ruled that Ohio's efforts to remove names from its voter rolls, in what has been dubbed a "use it or lose it" voting policy, does not violate federal law.

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All states are required to periodically comb the voter rolls for people who may have moved to another state - a process known as list maintenance. If they do nothing, their names eventually fall off the list of registered voters.

An individual who doesn't vote for two years is mailed a notice asking him to confirm his registration. Failure to return the notice "shows nothing at all that is statutorily significant", he wrote. The dissenters said it could result in thousands of infrequent voters losing their right to vote.

"We are now only 5 months from our next federal election and any rush now to remove a backlog of up to 589,000 voters that he has marked for purging will be extremely disruptive and unfair to OH voters", Clyde wrote. "The Trump campaign reelection strategy is voter suppression", former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander (D), who runs the voting rights group Let America Vote, told The Hill. The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute has undermined that founding principle.

Among those removed are Army veterans, who sued the state after being removed while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the decision risky and "a grave step backward in our nation's progress to advance a future in which every person can enjoy their full, equal right to be heard at the ballot box".

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, a Republican, praised the court's decision.

The discrepancies, identified by comparing the latest voter rolls with population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, were found across the state, popping up in both urban and rural counties.