HuffPost: Supreme Court Appears Divided Over Aggressive Ohio Voter Purge Process

Sam Levine
Jan 10, 2018
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Supreme Court justices appeared divided on Wednesday over whether an Ohio process for removing people from the voter rolls was a violation of federal law. 

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Justice Stephen Breyer seemed sympathetic to the state’s need to maintain accurate rolls, pressing Paul Smith, the lawyer for the plaintiffs challenging the Ohio law, on what processes states could use to reasonably identify people who had moved. He asked Smith how the state of Rhode Island, for example, could know if one of its eligible voters had moved to Tasmania and died there.

Smith responded by noting the federal government keeps records of people who died and that when people move they update their address with the state motor vehicle agency and the post office. The state could use that kind of evidence to determine whether someone had moved.

Smith also focused on the fact that in Ohio, the purging process is initiated when the state doesn’t get any response from a voter, not if mail cannot be returned. A process in which a state began a purging process based on returned undeliverable mail in addition to not voting for a period of three our four years would be more acceptable, he conceded, because the undeliverable mailing would provide the state with some kind of concrete evidence someone may have moved. Under Ohio’s current process, Smith said, 70 percent don’t respond to the confirmation mailing.

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