The U.S. Supreme Court has endorsed Ohio’s policy of making sure its voter registration rolls are up to date, despite claims from nonwhites that this policy “disenfranchises” them.
If they do not respond and do not vote over the following four years, they are purged from the rolls on the basis that they are clearly no longer resident at that address.
The state said the policy was needed to keep voting rolls current, removing people who have moved away or died.
In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s ruling that Ohio’s policy violated a 1993 federal law enacted to make it easier to register to vote.
The ruling was Hispanic Justice Sonia Sotomayor as an “endorsement of the disenfranchisement of minority and low-income Americans” which only affected supporters of the Democratic party.
The ruling was challenged in court by liberal advocacy group Demos and the American Civil Liberties Union, who argued that the practice “disproportionately impacted racial minorities and poor people who tend to back Democratic candidates.”
A 2016 Reuters analysis found roughly twice the rate of voter purging in Democratic-leaning neighborhoods in Ohio’s three largest counties as in Republican-leaning neighborhoods.
Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito said the court was not deciding whether Ohio’s policy “is the ideal method for keeping its voting rolls up to date. The only question before us is whether it violates federal law. It does not.”
Ohio’s policy would have barred more than 7,500 people from voting in the 2016 presidential election had the lower court not blocked it, according to court papers.
“This decision is validation of Ohio’s efforts to clean up the voter rolls and now with the blessing (of the) nation’s highest court, it can serve as a model for other states to use,” Republican Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted said.
Five other states also remove voters from their registration lists for failure to vote and extended periods of non-response to registration requests, and the Supreme Court ruling makes it more likely that the practice will now spread.