SCOTUS Delivers Major Blow to Dems, Rules States Can Purge Thousands of Voters


In a major ruling Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court said laws which allow states to purge voters from their rolls after long periods of inactivity are constitutional, a decision which was applauded by President Donald Trump.

Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute dealt with an Ohio law which governed how residents who hadn’t voted in several years were dealt with. After two years, the state would send you a piece of mail noting that you’d failed to vote. If you didn’t respond or vote in two more federal elections, you were dropped from the rolls.

In a reasonable world, nobody would complain about this. Pruning voter rolls serves important functions, whether it’s dropping voters who have moved away or preventing voter fraud (after all, as a demographic, dead voters tend to swing Democrat in a major way). And, like everything else that might exist in our hypothetical reasonable world, the left isn’t terribly fond of it.

“You’ll see more red states making it easier to drop people from the voter registration rolls,” Prof. Rick Hasen, election law expert at the University of California, Irvine, told NBC News.

“The Supreme Court got this one wrong. The right to vote is not ‘use it or lose it,'” Chris Carson, president of the League of Women Voters of the United States said. “This decision will fuel the fire of voter suppressors across the country who want to make sure their chosen candidates win reelection, no matter what the voters say.”

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The contention of the law’s opponents was that it violated the National Voter Registration Act, which states that certain criteria must be met before a voter is purged from the rolls — namely, if they ask, if they become mentally incapacitated, if they move, if they are convicted of a crime or if they die.

A federal court had previously ruled against Ohio, saying it had improperly purged 7,500 voters before the 2016 election in what was supposed to be a battleground state (it ended up not quite being that close, at least compared to Pennsylvania).

However, in his 5-4 majority ruling, Justice Samuel Alito wrote the Supreme Court’s role was not 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.”

Alito wrote that Ohio’s methodology was rigorous enough under the National Voter Registration Act to establish whether a voter still lived in the residence they were registered at.

Is Ohio's requirement reasonable to remain as a registered voter?

“The degree of correlation between the failure to vote for two years and a change of residence is debatable, but we know from subsection (d) (of the National Voter Registration Act) that Congress thought that the failure to vote for a period of two consecutive general elections was a good indicator of change of residence, since it made nonvoting for that period an element of subsection (d)’s requirements for removal,” the decision read. “In a similar vein, the Ohio Legislature apparently thought that nonvoting for two years was sufficiently correlated with a change of residence to justify sending a return card.”

Trump, tweeting from Singapore, expressed his approval.

Of course, this isn’t going to stop the sob stories from coming. Last year, for instance, NBC News published a story which opened with the travesty that one of the plaintiffs experienced.

“Larry Harmon, 60, hadn’t voted in a while when he drove to the high school in November 2015 to weigh in on a local referendum in Kent, Ohio,” they reported. “But he wasn’t allowed to cast his ballot.”

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Quelle horreur! And to what might this injustice be attributed? Uh, the fact he hadn’t voted in a long time.

“I served in the military and they tell us, ‘Oh, you’re fighting for freedom.'” Harmon said. “Then you come back and you’re taken off the voter rolls because you didn’t vote for two elections? That doesn’t make sense. I thought that was our right.”

So wait, you don’t respond to a piece of mail from the board of elections, you don’t vote for years, all of which is a good indicator of having left your residence, and then you claim that you have a “right” not to be taken off the voter rolls as per the law in the state of Ohio?

The only greater affront to reason I saw in the year and a half that this case was kicking around is that a major news outlet actually printed it with the misapprehension it would be persuasive.

And sometimes the sob stories come from the bench. In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said that the court had ignored “the history of voter suppression against which the NVRA (National Voter Registration Act) was enacted and upholds a program that appears to further the very disenfranchisement of minority and low-income voters that Congress set out to eradicate.”

“Communities that are disproportionately affected by unnecessarily harsh registration laws should not tolerate efforts to marginalize their influence in the political process, nor should allies who recognize blatant unfairness stand idly by,” she added.

Apparently, your community is “disproportionately affected by unnecessarily harsh registration laws” if you can’t bother to respond to a piece of mail sent after you don’t vote for a period of years. Who knew?

One of the great things about the ruling Thursday — or rather, the reactions to it — is the tacit admission that people who aren’t usually involved in the electoral process for years tend to vote Democrat. The implications of that are probably lost on the groups who lobbied so hard for this case to be decided in their favor, but it certainly gave me a chuckle.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture