Harmon and OH civil rights groups went to court, arguing that Ohio's practice conflicted with two federal voting laws.
Unlike many voting cases that come before the court, Wednesday's case centered not on grand constitutional principles but on interpreting seemingly contradictory directives of federal law.
U.S. States can target people who haven't cast ballots in a while in efforts to purge their voting rolls, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday in a case that has drawn wide attention amid stark partisan divisions and the approach of the 2018 elections. Although the state notifies the voter that they are in danger of being purged via a postcard, the entire process is triggered by the voter's failure to participate in the electoral process for "two consecutive years".
In a decision by Justice Samuel Alito, the court emphasized that subsection (d) of the NVRA specifically allows states to remove a voter who "has failed to respond to a notice" and "has not voted or appeared to vote".
The justices are rejecting, by a 5-4 vote Monday, arguments that the practice violates a federal law meant to increase the ranks of registered voters. He claimed no recollection of receiving a confirmation notice from the state and he later brought suit along with two public interest groups called the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the A. Philip Randolph Institute. During oral argument in January, Paul Smith, the lawyer for those challenging the law, said "most of the people who are purged have not moved".
Earlier this year, a judge ruled that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), whose office created the Crosscheck program, could not demand proof of citizenship beyond what is required under federal law before someone is registered to vote.
Earlier this year I was pondering whether Ohio's voter removal law was legal. Thomas noted that even if the respondents were correct about their statutory interpretation, such a statute preventing states from cleaning its voter rolls couldn't be constitutional.
Voters purged from registration rolls who sued to challenge the policy in the Republican-governed state said the practice illegally erased thousands of voters from registration rolls and disproportionately impacted racial minorities and poor people who tend to back Democratic candidates.
"It is undisputed that OH does not remove a registrant on change-of-residence grounds unless the registrant is sent and fails to mail back a return card and then fails to vote for an additional four years", Alito wrote.
Aside from the fact that I'd like to do away with voter registration entirely, none of this strikes me as either unreasonable or likely to change things significantly. Apparently I'm getting better at this Supreme Court prediction stuff! Other states begin the purge process after a voter goes an entire four-year cycle without casting a ballot. Twelve states and the District of Columbia have implemented automatic voter registration policies or laws, in which eligible voters are registered or their addresses are updated when they come into contact with a government agency like the Department of Motor Vehicles.
"The Supreme Court got this one wrong".
Aside from all the other good reasons to encourage more voting, there's also this: In 2016, United States voter turnout hit a 20-year-low.