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Published: Tue, June 12, 2018
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Opinion analysis: Justices rule for OH in voter-registration dispute

Opinion analysis: Justices rule for OH in voter-registration dispute

Civil-rights groups say the case is a landmark in the larger attempt by conservative states to marginalize ethnic minorities, who tend to have fewer people registered to vote already.

Half a dozen other states have similar practices.

OH state officials argued that the practice is an attempt to keep the list of registered voters up to date, removing people, for example, who have moved to another state. States can remove only someone who requests it, moves, dies, is convicted of a felony, or becomes mentally "incapacitated".

OH contends voters are not purged from registration rolls for not voting but for failing to respond to a notice mailed by the state to them and then not casting a ballot for four more years. Registration is canceled if there's no response to the notices, no votes are cast during the next four years and the voter's address isn't updated.

Monday's Supreme Court opinion did not deal with whatever alleged discriminatory effect Ohio's purge protocol had.

Several other states that use the failure to vote as a trigger in efforts to cleanse their registration rolls could be affected by the high court's decision in the OH case, including Georgia, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia. The challengers called Ohio's policy the most aggressive. It involves a dizzying web of federal legal provisions governing how states may - and, in some cases, must - maintain their voter registration laws.

Many states over the decades had erected barriers to voting, sometimes targeting black voters.

Aside from the fact that I'd like to do away with voter registration entirely, none of this strikes me as either unreasonable or likely to change things significantly.

In a dissenting opinion, Sotomayor said the ruling "ignores the history of voter suppression against which the NVRA was enacted and upholds a program that appears to further the very disenfranchisement of minority and low-income voters that Congress set out to eradicate". Voting rights activists rallied to oppose voter roll purges as the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the Husted v.

In a 5-4 decision with the court's conservatives in the majority, the justices overturned a lower court ruling that Ohio's policy violated the National Voter Registration Act, a 1993 federal law that forbids removing voters from registration lists for failing to vote.

The US Supreme Court sided with the OH in a case over whether or not the state has the right to cull voters from registers if they go too long without casting a ballot. Under the Trump administration, it flipped sides to support Ohio's unnecessary restrictions on the right to vote.

"This wrongly decided decision paves the way to mass disenfranchisement in OH and around the country", top House of Representatives Democrat Nancy Pelosi added.

The case was brought by Larry Harmon, an OH software engineer, who showed up to vote and found his name wasn't on the register. Courts around the country have mandated that states provide for specific days of early voting, out-of-precinct voting, same-day registration, pre-registration of minors, and straight ticket ballots - all the while barring states from requiring a photo ID to vote.

The ACLU's Dale Ho said the ruling "is not a green light to engage in wholesale purges of eligible voters without notice".

The majority pushed back against Justice Stephen Breyer's dissent, which was joined by Sotomayor and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan.

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