The lawsuit was filed against Ohio's secretary of state over the practice of flagging registered voters after they've missed one federal general election.
Justice Samuel Alito said for the court that OH is complying with the 1993 National Voter Registration Act. He's joined by four conservative colleagues, while all four liberal justices dissented. This term, it faces cases from Wisconsin and Maryland challenging what opponents claim were election maps drawn by state legislators for purely partisan gain. Republicans say voter rolls need scrutiny to prevent fraud and promote ballot integrity, while Democrats insist the efforts are meant to reduce turnout from Democratic-leaning groups such as racial minorities.
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OH contends voters are not purged from registration rolls for not voting but for failing to respond to a notice mailed by the state to them and then not casting a ballot for four more years. "Instead, as expressly permitted by federal law, it removes registrants only when they have failed to vote and have failed to respond to a change-of-residence notice". Voting-rights challengers said the state's approach was among the strictest in the nation. The decision could mean that more states will adopt similar laws to trim their voter rolls, particularly when (as the majority observed today) roughly one in eight voter registrations is "either invalid or significantly inaccurate". They get a mailed notification asking them to confirm their eligibility. "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". If they do nothing, their names eventually fall off the list of registered voters. Currently Congress, the Justice Department, and a big majority of states are under the control of a Republican Party that has all but abandoned any interest in vindicating voting rights. That law bars states from removing anyone "by reason of the person's failure to vote". "In my view, Ohio's program does just that". As part of the lawsuit, a judge past year ordered the state to count 7,515 ballots cast by people whose names had been removed from the voter rolls.
The administration of former president Barack Obama had opposed Ohio's process of purging voters, but Donald Trump's administration threw its support behind the midwestern state.
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The Supreme Court majority said OH didn't violate that provision. A three-judge panel on that court had ruled 2-1 that Ohio's practice was illegal.
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