Supreme Court Backs Ohio's Right to Purge Voting Rolls

13 June, 2018, 13:41 | Author: Gregory Stephens
  • Neil Gorsuch Casts the Deciding Vote Upholding Ohio’s Voter Purge

All in all, the procedures meant someone who didn't vote for six years and who threw out the notices could be removed from the rolls.

The case, Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, was taken to the high court after the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of OH resident Larry Harmon, who'd been removed from the state's registered voters list. In the majority decision, Justice Samuel Alito wrote Ohio's approach was lawful.

But Alito said OH "takes an intermediate approach". Even if there were a case or two, that's a tiny fraction of the more than 7,500 OH voters who went to the polls in 2016 and were turned away because they had been purged.

"The Supreme court now has essentially created a blueprint, for other state and other special interest groups that might be interested in disenfranchising, or using other tactics, to keep certain folks from the ballot".

The case centered around Larry Harmon, an OH resident who sat out the 2012 presidential election, as well as the 2010 and midterm elections, but wanted to vote on a ballot initiative concerning whether to legalize marijuana.

Kathleen Clyde says she'd do away with the state's practice of purging inactive voters if elected secretary of state in November.

The ruling could be a major victory for Republicans, who tend to benefit from lower voter turnout, and a stinging loss for Democrats, who do best in high-turnout elections. "And Justice Sotomayer has not pointed to any evidence in the record that OH instituted or has carried out its program with discriminatory intent". At least twelve other conservative states said they would follow Ohio's lead if it prevailed, NBC reports. Thomas noted that even if the respondents were correct about their statutory interpretation, such a statute preventing states from cleaning its voter rolls couldn't be constitutional. By a 5-4 vote, the Court upheld Ohio's policy of removing ineligible and outdated voters from it rolls.

Voter purges are not uncommon, even in states led by Democrats.


In a move that could impact future elections, the U.S.

But in recent years, some purges have been viewed through a more partisan lens.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) described the court ruling as a "setback for voting rights". Alabama put 340,000 voters on its inactive list the same year.

The Human Rights Campaign supports coalition partners in the fight to preserve voting rights and continues to work tirelessly through campaigns like HRC Rising and HRC Project One America to register voters in states where voting rights are especially vulnerable.

Under the process, OH voters who haven't cast a ballot in two years get a notice from the state asking them to verify they are eligible to vote. "The only question before us", he concluded, is whether the practice "violates federal law".

Attorneys for the organizations that challenged Ohio's practice expressed disappointment.

The Crosscheck program, which involves 26 states around the country, has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years as some states accuse it of improperly flagging eligible voters. According to briefs in the case, Harmon "expressed his dissatisfaction with the candidates by exercising his right not to vote". If they do nothing, their names eventually fall off the list of registered voters. Thankfully, today the Supreme Court reined in one of those lower court opinions, but the broader threat to state powers over election integrity remains strong.

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