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US Supreme Court rules Ohio voter purge lawful

People who have not voted for a number of years will be removed from the state's electoral register

THE US Supreme Court backed the state of Ohio yesterday, ruling that it is lawful to remove those who have not voted for a number of years from the electoral register.

Ohio state legislation allows authorities to send address confirmation notices to those who have not voted for two years. If they respond, their information is updated. However, a failure to reply sees their voter registration cancelled.

A case had been brought against the state of Ohio by Larry Harmon, who found he had been removed from the register in 2015 after opting not to vote in elections in 2009 and 2010.

Critics raised concerns over the aggressive purging of voter rolls in the key battleground state prior to mid-term elections.

But judges decided by five to four that the Ohio legislation does not violate federal law.

Republican Secretary of State for Ohio Jon Husted welcomed the decision, which he said validated the state’s legislation.

“Today’s decision is a victory for election integrity and a defeat for those who use the federal court system to make election law across the country.” 

He said Ohio’s method could serve as a model for other states to follow.

But Centre for American Progress spokeswoman Liz Kennedy warned:  ”The Supreme Court has just given a stamp of approval to voter suppression.

“Ohio’s system of purging voters that choose not to participate in some elections unfairly silences hundreds of thousands of voters in the state, especially people of colour and the homeless.”

Dissenting judge Justice Sonia Sotomayo argued that the court ignored a history of voter suppression that included “substantial efforts by states to disenfranchise low-income and minority voters.”

She said the decision was “ultimately sanctioning the very purging that Congress expressly sought to protect against.”

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