As Ohio Purges Voter Rolls, Oregon is Going Other Direction

As Ohio Purges Voter Rolls, Oregon is Going Other Direction

Kerry Wise
June 13, 2018

Civil rights groups are calling the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on Monday upholding Ohio's practice of purging voters from the rolls "a setback for voting rights".

In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled OH could continue to remove individuals from voter rolls if they had not voted in two federal elections and have not responded to a confirmation notice or update their registration.

Voting-rights groups led by the Ohio-based A. Philip Randolph Institute had challenged Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted's (R) process of purging hundreds of thousands of voters. Voters are not notified when their registration is removed. He was joined by his four conservative colleagues in an opinion that drew praise from Republican officials and conservative scholars. They have yet to decide two high-profile cases out of Wisconsin and Maryland that could impact future elections involving claims that state or congressional district maps were illegally drawn to favor one party over another, a practice called partisan gerrymandering.

Alito wrote the majority opinion and even he didn't sound that thrilled with the OH law. "We are disappointed that the Supreme Court has upheld a law that could disenfranchise voters in OH and lead to similar laws that could impactmillions of voters across the nation". Hasen said the lawsuit the court resolved Monday did not involve allegations of discrimination against minority voters, and he suggested the laws in OH and other states could be vulnerable to a legal challenge on those grounds.

The dissent by Justice Stephen Breyer, which traced the long history of state laws restricting the right to vote, argued that the OH process "erects needless hurdles to voting of the kind Congress sought to eliminate by enacting the Registration Act". And of course, they're all red states. But on the other hand, that's the kind of law that was in place for jurisdictions subject to the pre-clearance provisions of the Voting Right Acts of 1965 (whereby suspicious changes in voting procedures had to be approved in advance by the Justice Department) until the Supreme Court gutted it in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven't voted, Ohio's purge is slightly different. All states update their registers by cutting people who have moved or died, but this case centered on whether missing a few votes was sufficient grounds to drop someone.

Sebastian Vettel no longer felt like 'a passenger' in his Ferrari
It may have cost it pole - and, given the way the race unfolded, probably a win - so it will be fascinating to see how much extra the new specification of engine gives the world championship.

OH purges its voter rolls more aggressively than any other state. This decision is unsafe and damaging and is NOT why we passed the National Voter Registration Act in '93.

The dissenting voices on the court, including Justice Stephen Breyer, argued that Ohio's need to clear names of inactive voters - labeled by supporters as "bloated rolls" - is outweighed by the risk of disenfranchising voters. The majority found that the state was in compliance with the law in removing voters in this fashion.

Alito also responded to a searing dissent offered by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

After voting in the 2008 presidential election, Harmon opted not to vote in 2009 or 2010. In it, she said that friend-of-the-court briefs in the case had shown how the OH system "has disproportionately affected minority, low-income, disabled, and veteran voters". Alito said OH skirts that prohibition by sending voters the postcard, to which they can respond before their registrations are canceled.

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton noted on a video posted Monday that it was his organization's lawsuit that prompted OH to get more aggressive in purging ineligible voters in the first place. Ohio's process, he claims, "does not strike any registrant exclusively by reason of the failure to vote".