The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments on Wednesday in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute [docket], a case challenging Ohio’s voter registration maintenance policy, which permits the government to remove individuals from the voter registration list after several years of absence at the polls.
Ohio implemented a law to maintain and update its voter registration lists pursuant to the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and the Help America Vote Act of 2002, which forbids states from removing any voter from the list simply for not voting [SCOTUSblog, report]. Under the Ohio law, voters are sent a notice after two years of not submitting a vote. If the individual replies, then their name is kept on the list. If the individual does not reply and continues not to vote over the next four years, their name is removed from the list with the assumption that the person no longer resides in that district.
The question before the Supreme Court is whether Ohio’s law violates federal law in using voter inactivity as a reason to remove their name from the voter registration list.
Ohio argued [text, PDF] that the law does not violate federal voter law because it does not permit removal of a voter’s name solely for the reason that the person did not vote for a certain period of time. The state emphasized the wording of the statute [text, PDF], which states:
Any State program or activity to protect the integrity of the electoral process by ensuring the maintenance of an accurate and current voter registration roll for elections for Federal office … shall not result in the removal of the name of any person from the official list of voters registered to vote in an election for Federal office by reason of the person’s failure to vote …
The Respondents argued that under the Ohio law, voter inactivity is the only effective reason for removing a name from the voter registration list. Though not sending the notice back could be evidence a person has moved, it is unreliable evidence because the majority of people would not send the notice back, regardless of if they moved or remain at the same residence on their voter registration.