Opinion analysis: Justices rule for OH in voter-registration dispute

  • Opinion analysis: Justices rule for OH in voter-registration dispute

Opinion analysis: Justices rule for OH in voter-registration dispute

In their 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court determined that OH was in compliance with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.

OH said it only uses the process after first comparing its voter lists with U.S. Postal Service lists of changed addresses, but not everyone who moves notifies the post office. But not everyone who moves notifies the post office, the state said.

The court's four liberal justices dissented from the decision. The justices are rejecting, by a 5-4 vote on Monday arguments that the practice violates a federal law that was meant to increase the ranks of registered voters. And they rejected the challengers' argument that the state's practice violates the ban on removing voters from the registration lists "solely by reason of a failure to vote", reiterating that the state "removes registrants only if they have failed to vote and have failed to respond to a notice". His case was backed by 12 generally Democratic-leaning states (pdf, p.33-35), and was opposed by the Trump administration and 17 typically Republican states (pdf, p.21-22).

Justice Samuel Alito said for the court that OH is complying with the 1993 National Voter Registration Act. "Marginalized populations remain extremely vulnerable to state-sanctioned voter suppression and disenfranchisement, and we will continue to fight to uphold the rights of eligible voters in the 2018 midterm elections, and beyond".

At least a dozen other politically conservative states said they would adopt a similar practice if OH prevailed, as a way of keeping their voter registration lists accurate and up to date. The former OH secretary of state was named in the legal case.

Facing those sorts of issues, OH wanted to try to remove people who failed to vote in a six-year period and who failed to return a notice, figuring at that point they had probably moved and the registration was invalid.

After the last presidential election, the department switched sides in the case, Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, No. 16-980. "States may use whatever trigger they think best", to trigger the voter removal process, including the failure to vote. In 2016, an appeals court ruled Ohio's process violated the National Voting Rights Act of 1993 and the Help America Vote Act of 2002. The Supreme Court overturned that decision today. They have yet to decide two high-profile cases out of Wisconsin and Maryland that could impact future elections involving claims that state or congressional district maps were illegally drawn to favor one party over another, a practice called partisan gerrymandering.

The case was one of several pivotal election-related disputes the justices are resolving during their current term, which runs through June.