Editorial: Supreme Court gets it right on voter purge


The Lima News



Inactive voters in Ohio receive plenty of warning to “use it or lose it,” the United States Supreme Court ruled Monday in a 5-4 decision that has drawn plenty of criticism nationwide.

Count us among the few praising this ruling.

The high court avoided politics and based its decision on the merits of being constitutional and legal when it ruled Ohio was in compliance with the National Voter Registration Act.

In writing the opinion, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said, “We have no authority to second-guess Congress or to decide whether Ohio’s Supplemental Process is the ideal method for keeping its voting rolls up to date. The only question before us is whether it violates federal law. It does not.”

Ohio’s process has been in place for more than 20 years, a period marked by both Republican and Democrat governors. Registered voters who haven’t voted for two years are sent a card asking them to verify they still live at their listed address. Those who don’t return the card and fail to vote in any election for four more years are presumed to have moved and are removed from the voting rolls.

It seems to us to be a reasonable way to help ensure people are voting in only one precinct.

It also seemed reasonable to the majority of the Supreme Court.

The case centered around software engineer Larry Harmon, who wanted to vote against a 2015 Ohio ballot initiative to legalize marijuana, but found his name missing from the rolls. Harmon had last voted in 2008, but he missed two federal elections and did not contact the local board of elections in six years. When he showed up to vote, he found his name had been purged.

That raised the issue about conflicting mandates in the National Voter Registration Act that required states to maintain accurate voter registration lists, but also prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted.

While Ohio’s purge has been called the most aggressive in the nation, the court found Ohio passed legal muster with its attempt to reach people before removing their name from the voting roll.

The ruling did resurrect an age-old question about voting laws: What problem was Ohio trying to solve?

Those opposing the ruling have argued the real intent was to purge people from the rolls, particularly minorities and the poor who tend to vote Democratic.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor cited friend-of-the-court briefs claiming that Ohio’s policy had disproportionately affected minority, low-income, disabled and veteran voters. Sotomayor further noted that predominantly black neighborhoods in downtown Cincinnati had 10 percent of their voters removed from the rolls since 2012, compared with 4 percent of voters in a suburban, majority-white neighborhood.

What the dissenters fail to acknowledge, however, is that those purged from the list can easily re-register.

The bottom line: The only thing that can keep one from voting in Ohio is his or her’s own laziness.

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