This is a case which we covered here when it first went through the circuit courts and it’s probably going to impact a lot of states now that it’s finished. Ohio passed a law a few years ago which allows the state to delete residents from the voter rolls if they fail to vote over a certain period of time. After two years of not voting the state sends them a notification. If they fail to respond and go on to not vote for four more years they are dropped from the rolls.
The led to more than 7,500 people being purged in relatively short order and a group of them went to court to protest the law. An appellate court sided with the purged voters, but now the Supreme Court has overturned that ruling. The majority found that the state was in compliance with the law in removing voters in this fashion. (NBC News)
In a 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court gave Ohio a victory Monday in a fight over the state’s method for removing people from the voter rolls, a practice that civil rights groups said discourages minority turnout.
At least a dozen other politically conservative states said they would adopt a similar practice if Ohio prevailed, as a way of keeping their voter registration lists accurate and up to date.
Prof. Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine, predicted that a win for Ohio would escalate voting wars between the political parties.
“You’ll see more red states making it easier to drop people from the voter registration rolls,” he said.
Alito wrote the majority opinion and even he didn’t sound that thrilled with the Ohio law. He explained their decision by saying that it wasn’t the court’s job “to decide whether Ohio’s supplemental process is the ideal method for keeping its voting rolls up to date. The only question before us is whether it violates federal law. It does not.”
Perhaps that’s true but it doesn’t make this law any less odious. When the case first came up I noted that we definitely have serious issues with keeping our voter rolls up to date in this country, but this isn’t the way to address the problem. If you register to vote and then continue to live in the same residence year after year, you shouldn’t be forced to register again or even “check in” with the state government. The ability to vote is a right, not an obligation. And if you choose not to vote for six or seven years because you just don’t care for any of the candidates, that’s up to you.
If the projections in the NBC report are anywhere near accurate, as many as a dozen more states will be looking at passing similar laws now that the Supremes have weighed in. And of course, they’re all red states. If you were looking to hand liberals an excuse to keep up the drumbeat of saying that conservatives are trying to “suppress the vote” and make it harder for people to go to the polls, I can’t think of a better strategy.