Supreme Court upholds Ohio Voter Roll Maintenance law 5-4
On June 11, 2018 the Supreme Court ruled in Husted v. Philip Randolph Institute that Ohio did not act unconstitutionally when it passed a law that would assist the state in identifying voters who have moved from the state. The Ohio law stated that if a voter did not do any “voter activity” for two years, then the state would send a preaddressed, prepaid return card, which asked a voter to verify that he or she resided at the same address. Voters who did not return the card and failed to vote in any election for four or more years would be presumed to have moved from the state and removed from the voter rolls in the district where he or she was registered.
The challengers claimed that the law violated the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) and its amendments from the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), due to the fact that these laws state that a state “shall not result in the removal of the name of any person. . . by reason of the person’s failure to vote,” and because the law removed a person from the voter rolls for changing residences.
The Court disagreed and stated that that Ohio law conformed with the requirements of the NVRA and HAVA. The Court held that the Ohio law did not remove a registered voter because he or she had “failed to vote,” but instead found that since the Ohio law removed registered voters from voting rolls if they have failed to vote and failed to respond to a notice, that it was not removing voters solely on failing to vote. The Court found that HAVA did not allow for the removal of eligible voters after failing to vote if that was the sole reason why that person was being removed. In this case, Ohio had two reasons, making it conform with the requirements of HAVA.
Additionally, the Court held that Ohio law did not removed a registered voter for changing residences. It found that Ohio “treat[ed] the failure to return a notice and the failure to vote as evidence that a registrant has moved, not as a ground for removal.” The Court reached this conclusion by finding that the NVRA expressly authorized a state to conclude that a person has changed residence after evidence showed that a registered voter failed to return a notice card, and failed to vote for two consecutive elections.
The dissent argued that the law had discriminatory intent, but the challengers did not raise this argument when bringing this suit against Ohio.
Overall, this case allows for states to make better efforts to keep voter rolls up to date and aid in the prevention of voter fraud in our elections.