Ohio's voter purge may be legal, but it's also voter suppression

Oral argument in the Ohio voter purge case brought out protesters in January

Oral argument in the Ohio voter purge case brought out protesters in January

The court's conservative majority ruled 5-4 that OH did not violate federal laws by purging voters who don't vote and fail to return notices confirming their residency.

The justices rejected arguments that practices by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted violate a federal law meant to increase the ranks of registered voters. OH defended its practice by citing a provision of the 1993 National Voter Registration Act that states can remove potential voters from their lists and cancel registrations if they move. He's joined by four conservative colleagues, while all four liberal justices dissented. And, if that "one" consists of a failure to vote, then Ohio's program also fails to make the requisite "reasonable effort" to comply with subsection (a)'s statutory mandate.

Civil-rights groups say the case is a landmark in the larger attempt by conservative states to marginalize ethnic minorities, who tend to have fewer people registered to vote already.

Taken as a whole, this welter of provisions could plausibly be read in the way Justice Samuel Alito does on behalf of the Courts' Republicans - as an instruction manual to carry out the sort of voter purge that OH used in this case. The state appealed to the Supreme Court.

According to the 5-4 ruling, the state's "supplemental process" does not violate the National Voter Registration Act. "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.

"As expressly permitted by federal law", Alito said, OH "removes registrants only when they have failed to vote and have failed to respond to a change-of-residence notice".

In his own statement, Husted said he hoped the ruling would give other states a path toward purging duplicate or obsolete registrations.

The U.S. Supreme Court backed OH in its ruling on Monday regarding the state's current measure for canceling inactive voter registrations. "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". Clyde said the process leads to the removal of eligible voters, and it's not necessary for the state to maintain accurate voter rolls.

Justice Sotomayor, in addition to joining the main dissent, also wrote separately to emphasize how voter purge schemes like Ohio's have a disproportionate impact on low-income voters and minority voters.

Reminder: In #Husted, the Department of Justice under Jeff Sessions made a decision to abandon its longstanding position that the National Voter Registration Act and the Help America Vote Act prohibit techniques like Ohio's voter purge.

OH voters who do not return the card and fail to vote in any election for four more years are presumed to have moved and are removed from the rolls, Alito wrote.

Alito responded: "Justice Sotomayor's dissent says nothing about what is relevant in this case - namely, the language of the NVRA", adding that she "has not pointed to any evidence in the record that OH instituted or has carried out its program with discriminatory intent". He voted in the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections but did not vote in 2012, saying he was unimpressed by the candidates.

The Trump administration supported Ohio's voter purge. "It does not", Alito said.

"No other state has a practice as ham-handed and draconian as Ohio's", the League of Women Voters argued in a brief in the case.

The case came about when Larry Harmon challenged the process arguing that he was removed from the rolls even though he had not moved, but rather had opted not to vote in 2009 and 2010.

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