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11 June 2018, 11:47 | Erica Roy
Supreme Court decides case on purging voter registration rolls
This is a developing story.
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.
After the last presidential election, the department switched sides in the case, Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, No. 16-980.
The plaintiffs in the case, Husted v A. Philip Randolph Institute, challenged the OH law arguing it violated the National Voter Registration Act.
Voters purged from registration rolls who sued to challenge the policy in the Republican-governed state said the practice illegally erased thousands of voters from registration rolls and disproportionately impacted racial minorities and poor people who tend to back Democratic candidates.
In Florida, voters are moved from active to inactive status if they do not vote in two consecutive general elections and if they don't return a postage prepaid confirmation notice. The Supreme Court is allowing OH to clean up its voting rolls by targeting people who haven't cast ballots in a while.
Several other states that use the failure to vote as a trigger in efforts to cleanse their registration rolls could be affected by the high court's decision in the OH case, including Georgia, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia. One of the lead plaintiffs was software engineer and U.S. Navy veteran Larry Harmon, who was registered but blocked from voting in a 2015 marijuana-legalization initiative.
OH has used voters' inactivity to trigger the removal process since 1994, although groups representing voters did not sue the Republican secretary of state, Jon Husted, until 2016. In any case, I'm sticking with my original view: the OH law pushes right to the edge of what's legal under federal law, but it doesn't go beyond.
The process is one of two methods state officials use to identify voters who are no longer eligible to vote due to a change of residence. Currently Congress, the Justice Department, and a big majority of states are under the control of a Republican Party that has all but abandoned any interest in vindicating voting rights.
The majority pushed back against Justice Stephen Breyer's dissent, which was joined by Sotomayor and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan.
Aside from showing the importance of who does and does not get confirmed for the Supreme Court, the decision illustrates the weakness of federal voting-rights laws. Most of the states that backed OH have Republican governors or legislatures; most of those opposed are governed by Democrats.
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