Supreme Court decision allows states to purge voter rolls

A woman votes in Maryland in 2014

The case was the latest in a series of battles against attempts by some states to restrict voting rights and combat alleged voter fraud. This term, it faces cases from Wisconsin and Maryland challenging what opponents claim were election maps drawn by state legislators for purely partisan gain.

Adding to the tension in the case, the Trump administration reversed the position taken by the Obama administration and backed Ohio's method for purging voters. The first law, the National Voter Registration Act, was enacted in 1993 to advance two goals: Making it easier for would-be voters to register while at the same time guaranteeing "accurate and current" registration lists.

This presented a problem for OH because the state utilizes one of the strictest removal methods in the country, according to NBC News.

The big news in voting rights this week was the Supreme Court decision on Monday that upheld Ohio's aggressive voter-purge system. If that person not respond and doesn't vote over the next four years, they are dropped from the registration list. If they don't respond and don't vote in the next two general elections, they are targeted for eventual removal from registration rolls, even if they haven't moved and remain eligible. All in all, the procedures meant someone who didn't vote for six years and who threw out the notices could be removed from the rolls.

The federal law at issue had one provision indicating how states might verify an apparent change of address by return-postage-paid notice to voters, and another banning a purge on the basis of failure to vote.

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For the five justices in the majority - Alito, along with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch - the extent to which Ohio's practice hews to subsection (d) was enough. "And Justice Sotomayer has not pointed to any evidence in the record that OH instituted or has carried out its program with discriminatory intent".

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.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who filed a separate dissent, said that Congress enacted the voter registration law "against the backdrop of substantial efforts by states to disenfranchise low-income and minority voters".

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.

The American Civil Liberties Union called the decision a "setback for voting rights". A three-judge panel on that court had ruled 2-1 that Ohio's practice was illegal.

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