Imagine this scenario. Like many people, you didn’t bother voting in the last election or two, because you were busy, or none of the races really interested you, or maybe you’re in the military and were stationed overseas, or maybe you just haven’t gotten around to it for a while. You vaguely remember getting a notice about your registration from the state board of elections, but you threw it away with the other junk mail. You know you’re registered, so there shouldn’t be a problem. Then, on the next Election Day, you show up to vote only to discover that you’ve been “purged.” Because you didn’t vote for a time and you didn’t return that letter, the state has kicked you off the voting rolls. Today, the Supreme Court said that’s just fine.
This case concerned a purge of voter rolls conducted by the state of Ohio, and the state’s relatively new practice of using people’s failure to vote as a justification for removing them from the rolls. Under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (commonly known as “motor voter” since it allowed people to register at the Department of Motor Vehicles), states are prohibited from using someone’s failure to vote as an excuse to purge them. But the five conservative justices ruled that because Ohio wasn’t using failure to vote as the only criterion to purge someone — a failure to return the notice is also required — then there’s no problem.
There’s little doubt about what’s going to happen now. Back in January, Myrna Pérez, who runs the Voting Rights and Elections project at the Brennan Center for Justice, told me that “purges are very likely to be the next big method of voter suppression.” And now, every Republican-controlled state in the country is going to start devising voter purges intended to solidify the GOP’s hold on power, if it hasn’t already.