The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled 5-4 in favor of Ohio’s “use it or lose it” practice which purges people from voter rolls if they sit out a certain number of elections.
Ohio election officials send notices to anyone who fails to cast a ballot during a two-year period. People who do not respond and don’t vote over the next four years, including in two more federal elections, are dropped from the list of registered voters….
…Opponents of Ohio’s system, led by the A. Philip Randolph Institute, said it violated the National Voter Registration Act, which specifies that voters can be purged from the rolls only if they ask, move, are convicted of a felony, become mentally incapacitated, or die. More than half the voters in Ohio fail to cast a ballot over a two-year period, the group said, and those who receive the state’s notices simply throw them away.
In delivering the opinion of the court, Justice Samuel Alito said the law does not violate that clause or any other provision of the NRVA.
“The notice in question here warns recipients that unless they take the simple and easy step of mailing back the pre-addressed, postage prepaid card — or take the equally easy step of updating their information online — their names may be removed from the voting rolls if they do not vote during the next four years,” he wrote. “It was Congress’s judgment that a reasonable person with an interest in voting is not likely to ignore notice of this sort.”
Justice Stephen Breyer issued a dissenting opinion, which Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — the other members on the court’s liberal wing — joined.
NBC News notes that at least 12 other conservative-leaning states have said they would move to update their voter purge practices if Ohio prevailed at SCOTUS
Said Freda Levenson, legal director at the ACLU of Ohio: “Today’s decision is a blow, not just to Ohio voters, but to the democratic process. Giving the green light to Ohio’s purge process could have a ripple effect across the entire country. Despite this setback, the court’s decision will not hinder our current and future advocacy efforts. Marginalized populations remain extremely vulnerable to state-sanctioned voter suppression and disenfranchisement, and we will continue to fight to uphold the rights of eligible voters in the 2018 midterm elections, and beyond.”