The Supreme Court hinted it may allow states more flexibility to remove registered voters from state rolls during a lively argument on Wednesday.
A majority of the Court appeared ready to sanction Ohio’s voter purge program, which Democrats have linked to a broader voter suppression effort.
At issue in Wednesday’s case, Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, was Ohio’s registry maintenance policy. Voters in Ohio who fail to vote in a federal election are issued a confirmation notice by mail. If a voter fails to return the notice, and does not vote over the next four years, the voter is removed from state rolls.
Ohio says the program helps the state determine which citizens have died or moved to different jurisdictions, warranting their removal from the registry.
Almost 20 others states include voter inactivity in their registry maintenance programs. A handful of states, including Pennsylvania, use policies similar to Ohio’s. …
… In a surprising development, Justice Stephen Breyer appeared to sympathize with Ohio’s position, citing its heightened interest in protecting the integrity of its registry. Though he acknowledged non-voting is not a perfect proxy for change in residence, he suggested Ohio’s policy generates useful data for elections officials.
“We do have the fact that that notice didn’t come back, and that means more than you think it means,” he told Smith of the failure to return a confirmation mailer.
Justice Anthony Kennedy echoed Breyer’s view.