Supreme Court will consider Ohio voter purge case

The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear a case concerning whether Ohio’s method of removing names from its voter rolls violates federal law.

A federal appeals court said last fall that the program violated the National Voter Registration Act, and the state of Ohio appealed.

The appeals court said that Ohio’s so-called “supplemental process,” where “a voter is purged from the rolls after six years of inactivity — even if he or she did not move and otherwise remains eligible to vote,” is in violation of the voter law.

The ruling was a victory for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and other groups who expressed concern that the purge would impact “many thousands” of Ohio voters.

Ohio’s Secretary of State Jon Husted defended the state’s process. In court papers filed with the Supreme Court, he noted that the voters who have not engaged in voter activity for two years are sent notices. If a voter returns the notice through prepaid mail or responds through the internet, his information is updated. If the notice is ignored and the voter fails to update a registration over the next four years, the registration is canceled.

“The Sixth Circuit’s decision makes it harder for states to conduct what all can agree is a critical activity — removing ineligible voters from registration lists — by eliminating one method for doing so,” Husted argued.

The high court will hear the case the next term.

Freda Levenson, Legal Director of the ACLU of Ohio, released a statement urging the Supreme Court to affirm the lower court opinion because Ohio’s method has “served as a powerful mechanism of voter suppression.”

“Ohio has purged hundreds of thousands of people from the voter rolls simply because they have exercised their right not to vote in a few elections,” she said.