The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to hear yet another case on voting rights — not so much about who can vote, but who cannot. The justices will hear Ohio’s challenge to a federal appeals court ruling that struck down the state’s aggressive method for purging voters from its registration rolls. The decision to hear the case could signify that some of the Supreme Court’s more conservative justices believe Ohio and other states have a right to purge voters for not voting in several successive elections. Ohio says at least 10 other states have similar processes; opponents say only five do: Pennsylvania, Georgia, Tennessee, Oklahoma and West Virginia.
Ohio removes voters who haven’t voted in six years or who fail to respond to notices that they might be removed from registration rolls. The process — which has removed thousands of voters who last voted in 2008, the year Barack Obama was elected president — is run by county officials somewhat haphazardly, according to an investigation last year by the Cincinnati Enquirer and USA TODAY Network.
Once voters are warned about their inactivity, they can maintain their registration by voting, signing a ballot initiative petition, responding to the notice, seeking an absentee ballot, or registering anew at a motor vehicles or board of elections office.
But voting rights advocates say that’s not enough. Under federal laws enacted in 1993 and 2002, they say, states are not supposed to remove voters from registration lists because of their failure to vote. The laws do allow states to remove voters who don’t respond to confirmation notices and then fail to vote in two general federal elections.