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Supreme Court Backs Ohio's Right to Purge Voting Rolls

Those who skip a few elections are in danger of being un-registered
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 11, 2018 10:50 AM CDT
Voters fill out their ballots on primary election day on May 8, 2018, in Cincinnati.   (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

(Newser) – Ohio takes a relatively aggressive approach to purging its rolls of voters, and the Supreme Court on Monday declared it's perfectly legal to do so. Under Ohio law, people who skip voting in two consecutive elections and then ignore various mailings from the state are removed from registration rolls, reports the Columbus Dispatch. Groups including the ACLU challenged the practice, but the Supreme Court's five conservative justices sided with Ohio. "The only question before us is whether it violates federal law," wrote Samuel Alito, referring to the 1993 Voter Registration Act. "It does not." The court's four more liberal justices dissented. As the New York Times explains, federal law forbids removing people from registration rolls because of a failure to vote, but it gives state officials leeway to drop voters who they think have moved.

Sonia Sotomayor wrote in her dissent that the 1993 law was intended to guard against the disenfranchising of "low-income and minority voters," and Monday's decision supports "the very purging that Congress expressly sought to protect against," per the AP. Alito, however, said people had plenty of opportunity to make sure their names weren't removed. "Combined with the two years of nonvoting before notice is sent, that makes a total of six years of nonvoting before removal," he wrote. The case involved an Akron man who voted in the 2008 presidential race but skipped 2012, along with the 2010 and 2014 midterms. When he tried to vote in a 2015 marijuana ballot initiative, he was out of luck. In the 2016 presidential vote, about 7,500 people discovered the same, the ACLU found. That would not have been enough to tip Ohio to Hillary Clinton, notes the Dispatch. (Read more voting rights stories.)

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