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U.S. Supreme Court Backs States’ Voter-Purge Efforts
12 June 2018, 02:28 | Glen Norman
Voting-rights challengers said the state's approach was among the strictest in the nation. This term, it faces cases from Wisconsin and Maryland challenging what opponents claim were election maps drawn by state legislators for purely partisan gain.
After the last presidential election, the department switched sides in the case, Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, No. 16-980.
Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor wrote dissents, with Justice Sotomayor accusing the majority of trampling on the right to vote, saying she feared it would be used against minorities.
The plaintiffs in the case, Husted v A. Philip Randolph Institute, challenged the OH law arguing it violated the National Voter Registration Act.
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This presented a problem for OH because the state utilizes one of the strictest removal methods in the country, according to NBC News.
"Ohio's process cannot be unreasonable because it uses the change-of-residence evidence that Congress said it could: the failure to send back a notice coupled with the failure to vote for the requisite period", Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito write in the decision. If voters don't respond and don't vote in the next two general elections, they could be removed from the voter rolls.
"It is undisputed that OH does not remove a registrant on change-of-residence grounds unless the registrant is sent and fails to mail back a return card and then fails to vote for an additional four years", Alito wrote.
Six other states - Georgia, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania and West Virginia - have similar practices that target voters for removal from the rolls for not voting, but Ohio's is the most extreme. The second law, the 2002 Help America Vote Act, directed the states to maintain a system to cull ineligible voters from their lists.
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.
"Communities that are disproportionately affected by unnecessarily harsh registration laws should not tolerate efforts to marginalize their influence in the political process, nor should allies who recognize blatant unfairness stand idly by", added Sotomayor, the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice.
A decision upholding Ohio's law will pave the way for more aggressive vote-purging efforts in OH and other states, said Dale Ho, who heads the American Civil Liberties Union's Voting Rights Project. A three-judge panel on that court had ruled 2-1 that Ohio's practice was illegal.
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