On a party-line vote, Supreme Court approves OH voter purges

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Supreme Court decides case on purging voter registration rolls

The Supreme Court has heard a bevy of voting rights cases since its controversial 2013 decision striking down a key section of the Voting Rights Act, which had forced mostly Southern states to clear changes in election laws with federal officials.

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".

The federal statute at issue in Husted, the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), specifically contemplates some kind of "notify, wait, and purge" process like the one used in Ohio.

Justice Sotomayor, who joined with the liberal justices in dissenting and also wrote a separate dissenting opinion, spoke to that past as well. Such a trigger mechanism, according to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, constitutes removal "solely by reason of a failure to vote".

"This decision will fuel the fire of voter suppressors across the country who want to make sure their chosen candidates win re-election - no matter what the voters say", Carson added. Republicans have argued that they are trying to promote ballot integrity and prevent voter fraud.

So the state asks people who haven't voted in two years to confirm their eligibility. "Registrants who have not responded to a notice and who have not voted in 2 consecutive general elections for Federal office shall be removed from the official list of eligible voters", according to the NVRA, "except that no registrant may be removed exclusively by reason of a failure to vote".

In a decision by Justice Samuel Alito, the court emphasized that subsection (d) of the NVRA specifically allows states to remove a voter who "has failed to respond to a notice" and "has not voted or appeared to vote".

In other words, a voter doesn't even get on the list of people subject to a purge unless they fail to vote for two consecutive years.

OH said it only uses the process after first comparing its voter lists with U.S. Postal Service lists of changed addresses, but not everyone who moves notifies the post office.

The justices, voting 5-4 along ideological lines, said the system was a legitimate effort to identify people who have moved away and didn't illegally penalize people for not voting. That law states that "nothing in this paragraph may be construed to prohibit a state from using the procedures described" in the motor voter law. "In my view, Ohio's program does just that". The court's decision essentially endorses "the very purging that Congress expressly sought to protect against", Sotomayor wrote. 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.

In September 2016, a federal appeals court ruled against OH, saying that 7,515 ballots that had been struck could be cast in the that fall's election. They said Ohio's policy is part of a larger campaign to disenfranchise voters - especially minorities and those disproportionately likely to oppose President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: "Excitement in the air" ahead of Kim meeting Trump doubles down on criticism of EU, Canada Merkel: EU will retaliate against Trump tariffs MORE.

Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump said he would nominate Eric Murphy, the OH lawyer who argued the case on the state's behalf, to a seat on the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. And there was no doubt that OH - which has purged 2 million voters since 2011 on various pretexts - would aggressively pursue whatever avenues the courts allowed for restricting the franchise, which happens to benefit the party that has run Ohio's electoral machinery during this period.

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