Supreme Court OKs Ohio Voter Purge Law

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A sharply divided US Supreme Court on Monday approved the practice by the state of OH of purging infrequent voters from their registration lists - a move civil rights groups claim disproportionately affects minorities and the poor.

"Ohio's process cannot be unreasonable because it uses the change-of-residence evidence that Congress said it could: the failure to send back a notice coupled with the failure to vote for the requisite period", Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito write in the decision.

The procedure "does not strike any registrant exclusively by reason of the failure to vote", Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority.

Democrats have accused Republicans of taking steps at the state level, including laws requiring certain types of government-issued identification, meant to suppress the vote of minorities, poor people and others who generally favour Democratic candidates. This term, it faces cases from Wisconsin and Maryland challenging what opponents claim were election maps drawn by state legislators for purely partisan gain. If they do not respond and do not vote over the following four years, they are removed from the rolls. "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 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.

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If they do not respond to the notice or do not vote over the next four years, they are dropped from the registration rolls.

A decision upholding Ohio's law will pave the way for more aggressive vote-purging efforts in OH and other states, said Dale Ho, who heads the American Civil Liberties Union's Voting Rights Project.

"With the midterm election season now underway, the court's ruling demands heightened levels of vigilance as we anticipate that officials will read this ruling as a green light for loosely purging the registration rolls in their community", said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. As part of the lawsuit, a judge previous year ordered the state to count 7,515 ballots cast by people whose names had been removed from the voter rolls. He is running for lieutenant-governor this November on the Republican ticket headed by Mike DeWine, the current attorney general.

The case was Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute.

"This decision will fuel the fire of voter suppressors across the country who want to make sure their chosen candidates win reelection-no matter what the voters say". A three-judge panel on that court had ruled 2-1 that Ohio's practice was illegal.