OH case kicks off US Supreme Court focus on voting issues

A 2016 Reuters study found at least 144,000 people removed from the rolls in Ohio's three largest counties in recent years

She noted that in the past, both Republican and Democratic administrations had interpreted the NVRA as prohibiting the use of non-voting as a reason to remove people from the rolls.

The state of OH claims that these regulations have "dueling purposes" of facilitating access to the ballot, but also ensuring the integrity of the process, which in their view necessitates regularly cleaning and purging voter lists. Sotomayor was the only justice to bring up the policy's impact on groups of voters that tend to vote for Democratic candidates: Reports on Ohio's purges have found that "voters have been struck from the rolls in Democratic-leaning neighborhoods at roughly twice the rate as in Republican neighborhoods".

'It's done to try to be helpful to the voter and helping them update their information and also to make sure that we maintain the voter rolls'.

But the court's conservatives and possibly also Justice Stephen Breyer indicated that they would uphold the state's effort.

On January 10 th, the US Supreme Court will listen to arguments on Ohio's methods to clear up its voter rolls.

"A United States serviceman being told that he could go defend the right to vote but cannot exercise that right is ridiculous", Helle said.

The case questions the legality of Ohio's approach to keeping its voter registration rolls up to date. In May, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

U.S. Supreme Court justices suggested they may give states broader latitude to purge their voting databases of people who might have moved, as the court heard arguments Wednesday in an OH case that could shape who gets to cast ballots in the November election. Under Ohio law, a voter who does not vote for two years is sent a notice, which asks him to confirm that he is still eligible to vote.

In a Supreme Court brief, OH officials said the notices protect the integrity of the voting rolls, as failing to vote suggests that voters may have moved.




The case is the latest in a series of battles against some states' efforts to restrict voting rights and combat alleged voter fraud.

The issue in the case is whether Ohio's procedure comports with federal law, which bars removal of people from voter roles for failing to vote.

One of the most common and least visible forms of voter suppression is the removal of eligible voters from the rolls if they haven't voted recently.

Helle said he had no idea his name had been dropped and said he mailed in absentee ballots in some years and not others. He was given a provisional ballot again, but was advised to check with the board of elections. But according to the League of Women Voters, "no other state. has a practice as ham-handed and draconian as Ohio's". Levitt said some justices might use the potential harms, however, as evidence of what Congress meant to do when it passed the NVRA, a key part of analysis for some justices. "Choosing not to vote is as important as choosing to vote. And I saw my son's name, but I didn't see my name", he says.

Kennedy repeated this sentiment, telling Smith that states were purging registration lists "to protect the voter rolls from people" who have moved and are "voting in the wrong district". Kennedy often swings a decision that splits the conservative and liberal-leaning justices.

Civil rights groups contend that a decision for OH would have widespread implications because there is a "nationwide push to make it more hard and costly to vote", as the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund told the court. The American Civil Liberties Union reports that about 7,500 OH swing-state voters who would have been blocked from voting in the 2016 presidential election because of the rule. "It's only out of state folks who seem to have trouble with how to implement the laws in OH". States can use change-of-address forms filed with the U.S. Postal Service, as well as government tax records, census lists and motor-vehicle department databases, the challengers say.

But Secretary of State Husted says the goal is not to keep people from the polls. If someone doesn't respond and then doesn't vote during the next four years, the state removes the person. If they do not return the mail and they do not vote for the next four years, they are taken off the voter rolls. "We need a little help from the voter", Husted said. By starting the process because a person did not vote in an election, "you're going to vastly over-purge people".

Following that decision, a federal district court entered an injunction for the November 2016 presidential election that allowed more than 7,500 OH voters to cast a ballot.

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