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States can purge voters who don't vote or respond to warnings
12 June 2018, 02:48 | Darnell Patrick
Supreme Court Allows Ohio to Purge Inactive Voters
At least six other states have similar laws, and the ruling could embolden others to follow suit and enact what critics say are aggressive purges of voter rolls. That law bars states from removing anyone "by reason of the person's failure to vote".
Under that policy, voters who fail to cast a ballot for two years are sent a letter by state elections officials.
Chris Carson, president of the League of Women Voters, said the Supreme Court "got this one wrong". If the notice is ignored and the voter fails to update a registration over the next four years, the registration is canceled.
Attorneys for the organizations that challenged Ohio's practice expressed disappointment.
Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the majority opinion, said OH officials were not violating federal law with their purge policy (which, according to a federal appeals court, has resulted in 7,500 OH voters being wrongly purged).
"Democracy suffers when laws make it harder for U.S. Citizens to vote".
Many states over the decades had erected barriers to voting, sometimes targeting black voters. The 1993 voter registration act was enacted "against the backdrop of substantial efforts by states to disenfranchise low-income and minority voters", she wrote.
The U.S. Supreme Court gave states more power to purge their voting databases of people who haven't cast ballots recently, upholding an OH system that could become a model for other Republican-controlled states.
Myrna Perez, who heads the Voting Rights and Elections project at the Brennan Center for Justice, said the Supreme Court had reiterated that states must both give notice to voters whose registrations might be canceled and give those voters the time to either become active or respond. "Today's decision forces these communities and their allies to be even more proactive and vigilant in holding their states accountable and working to dismantle the obstacles they face in exercising the fundamental right to vote".
Republican President Donald Trump's administration backed OH, reversing the stance taken by Democratic former President Barack Obama's administration against the policy, and welcomed the ruling.
"We are anxious that would-be vote suppressors will read too much into it and conclude that aggressive purges or unreasonable purges would be tolerated", Perez said in an interview.
"This wrongly decided decision paves the way to mass disenfranchisement in OH and around the country", top House of Representatives Democrat Nancy Pelosi added.
"Leftists opposed to election integrity suffered a big defeat today".
The court's four liberal justices dissented from the decision. Since people tend not to send confirmation notices back to the government, it is not a reliable way to determine whether someone has moved away, Breyer added. Most of the states that backed OH have Republican governors or legislatures; most of those opposed are governed by Democrats.
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