Supreme Court Opens Door to More Red-State Voter Purges

Cheryl Sanders
June 11, 2018

The Supreme Court on Monday upheld Ohio's "use it or lose it" practice of cleaning up its voter rolls.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Ohio's aggressive voter purge method on Monday.

The justices are rejecting, by a 5-4 vote Monday, arguments that the practice violates a federal law meant to increase the ranks of registered voters.

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.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented.


The case was the latest in a series of battles against attempts by some states to restrict voting rights and combat alleged voter fraud.

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.

Partisan fights over ballot access are being fought across the country. "The failure to return a notice and the failure to vote simply serve as evidence that a registrant has moved, not as the ground itself for removal". "In my view, Ohio's program does just that". The 1993 voter registration act was enacted "against the backdrop of substantial efforts by states to disenfranchise low-income and minority voters", she wrote.

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.

Several other states that use the failure to vote as a trigger in efforts to cleanse their registration rolls could be affected by the high court's decision in the OH case, including Georgia, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia. The court's decision essentially endorses "the very purging that Congress expressly sought to protect against", Sotomayor wrote.


According to Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, however, the decision not only "gets the law wrong", but also "sends the wrong message to state officials".

Husted called the decision "a victory for electoral integrity".

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.

Earlier this year I was pondering whether Ohio's voter removal law was legal. A three-judge panel on that court had ruled 2-1 that Ohio's practice was illegal.


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