Supreme Court to look at Ohio's voter-removal laws

Supreme Court To Hear Arguments In Ohio Voter Purge Case

They also point to other reasons people may have temporarily moved, but not changed their voting address, including military service.

The Supreme Court will hear about the issue of what a state can assume from a resident's failure to cast a vote in more than one election. Everyone who cares about the right to vote should pay close attention to how the justices approach this case.

The case has taken on added importance because the parties have squared off over ballot access across the country. Republicans have argued that they are trying to promote ballot integrity and prevent voter fraud.

Voting rights has been an important theme before the Supreme Court during their nine-month term that began in October, in particular the question of whether actions by state leaders have disenfranchised thousands of voters either by marginalizing their electoral clout or by prohibiting them from voting.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, often the court's swing vote, said states are aiming to "protect the voter roll from people that have moved". As part of the lawsuit, a judge past year ordered the state to count 7,515 ballots cast by people whose names had been removed from the voter rolls.

Opponents of the OH process say federal law prohibits using voting inactivity to trigger purges. As part of their process for maintaining voter rolls, county election officials in OH mail notices to registered voters who have not voted for two years. The state says it removes names only after local election boards send notices and there's no subsequent voting activity for the next four years. He told a county election board official by email that he is a USA citizen born in OH and should be reinstated to the rolls. This term, it faces cases from Wisconsin and Maryland challenging what opponents claim were election maps drawn by state legislators for purely partisan gain.

The Supreme Court was deeply divided Wednesday over Ohio's method of purging voters who fail to vote or return warning notices, but it appeared the court's conservative majority may uphold the controversial practice.

Helle said he had no idea his name had been dropped and said he mailed in absentee ballots in some years and not others.

Sotomayor also said people have a "right not to vote".

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But even if he hadn't voted, Helle said opting not to cast a ballot should be a voter's choice and shouldn't be penalized.

"I confess to doing that sometimes", Breyer said of putting mailings in the thrash. "Other times I didn't like either of the candidates".

The case before the court centers on Republican-ruled OH where, under current law, state authorities can take away the right to vote from anyone who fails to show up at the polls for several years in a row.

Lawyers arguing against the OH voter purge system note that once you miss two federal elections in that state and fail to reaffirm your registration, if you go to vote, and cast a provisional ballot, that ballot will not be counted because you are no longer registered.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, both conservatives, suggested that a person's failure to vote could be used as evidence for possible removal from the registration list. Civil rights groups contend that a decision for OH would have widespread implications because there is a "nationwide push to make it more hard and costly to vote", as the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund told the court.

Without that decision, "the ballots of more than 7,500 eligible Ohioans would have gone uncounted in the November 2016 election", Mr. Harmon's lawyers at Demos and the American Civil Liberties Union wrote in a Supreme Court brief. A ruling for OH could prompt other states to adopt the practice, which generally pits Democrats against Republicans.

A 2016 Reuters analysis found roughly twice the rate of voter purging in Democratic-leaning neighborhoods in Ohio's three largest counties as in Republican-leaning neighborhoods.

Smith said 20 percent of people sent back the forms, and the Post Office returned 10 percent as undeliverable.

Harmon and his lawyers contend that the trigger for removal is in fact the failure to vote in two consecutive elections.

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