WASHINGTON - States can target people who havenâ€™t cast ballots in a while in efforts to purge their voting rolls, the Supreme Court ruled Monday in a case that has drawn wide attention amid stark partisan divisions and the approach of the 2018 elections.
By a 5-4 vote that split the conservative and liberal justices, the court rejected arguments in a case from Ohio that the practice violates a federal law intended to increase the ranks of registered voters. A handful of other states also use votersâ€™ inactivity to trigger processes that could lead to their removal from the voting rolls.
Justice Samuel Alito said for the court that Ohio is complying with the 1993 National Voter Registration Act. He was joined by his four conservative colleagues in an opinion that drew praise from Republican officials and conservative scholars.
The four liberal justices dissented, and civil rights groups and some Democrats warned that more Republican-led states could enact voter purges similar to Ohioâ€™s.
Ohio is of particular interest nationally because it is one of the larger swing states in the country with the potential to determine the outcome of presidential elections. But partisan fights over ballot access are playing out across the country. Democrats have accused Republicans of trying to suppress votes from minorities and poorer people who tend to vote for Democrats. Republicans have argued that they are trying to promote ballot integrity and prevent voter fraud.