Supreme Court Upholds Ohio Voter-Purging Technique

By: - June 11, 2018 12:00 am

Voters cast their ballots in the Ohio primary in May. John Minchillo/AP

The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld an Ohio practice that removes voters from the rolls if they don’t vote for several years.

The justices voted 5-4 that the state may continue to remove voters from registration lists if they fail to vote in a federal election and then don’t respond to a mailer seeking to confirm their address. Those who do not vote within the next four years are purged from the list.

Federal law does not allow people to be removed from voter rolls for failure to vote. But the justices ruled that mailing a letter in response to inactivity, even if it triggers the start of the removal process, does not violate that law.

New York and 11 other mostly Democratic states filed a brief saying Ohio erred in assuming that making the choice to not vote in an election signifies someone has moved. Others, including Georgia and 16 other largely conservative states, filed a brief in favor of Ohio but said states need more clarification on acceptable methods to meet the requirement that they make a reasonable effort to remove unnecessary names from the list.

A number of election officials have faced lawsuits for voter purging— both for being too aggressive in removing names and for not removing enough.

In the Ohio case, the Department of Justice initially sided with those suing the state but switched sides after the 2016 election.

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Rebecca Beitsch

Rebecca Beitsch writes about energy and the environment for Stateline. She covered state government in Missouri and North Dakota, writing about politics and policy for NewsRadio KMOX, the Columbia Missourian and the Bismarck Tribune.