The Supreme Court said Tuesday it will hear yet another voting rights dispute next term and consider reinstating Ohio’s method for purging the names of those who do not regularly vote from registration rolls.
Civil rights groups, which have successfully challenged the state’s process, told the Supreme Court that there was no reason to disturb a decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit striking down the rules as a violation of federal voting law.
Democrats and advocates for the poor say the state’s efforts are disproportionately felt in neighborhoods that tend to vote Democratic. The procedure has prompted years of litigation between the advocates and the Republican-led legislature.
But Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican who is running for governor, said the process has been used under both Democrats and Republicans. It is a way to clear the voter rolls of those who have died or moved away and increases public confidence, he said.
“Maintaining the integrity of the voter rolls is essential to conducting an election with efficiency and integrity,” Husted said in a statement.
“I remain confident that once the justices review this case they will rule to uphold the decades-old process that both Republicans and Democrats have used in Ohio to maintain our voter rolls as consistent with federal law,” he added.
He said that in his time in office, the efforts have resulted in the removal of nearly 560,000 deceased Ohioans from the rolls and “the resolution of more than 1.65 million voters who were registered more than once.”
But opponents say it is inappropriate to have such efforts be triggered by a failure to vote.
Under Ohio’s procedure, voters who do not vote for two years are sent registration confirmation notices. If they do not respond and do not vote over the next four years, they are removed from the rolls.
The groups that challenged the law said the procedure violates a part of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which prohibits a voter-list maintenance program for federal elections that “result[s] in the removal of the name of any person from the official list of voters . . . by reason of the person’s failure to vote.”
Other states take action only after receiving notice that a person has moved, the groups said.
The provision in the federal law “reflects the basic principle that, just as every eligible voter has the constitutional right to vote, each one also has the right not to cast a vote — and the mere exercise of that right should not be the basis for removal from the voter rolls,” the organizations told the court in a brief.
André Washington, president of one of the groups that challenged the state, the Ohio A. Philip Randolph Institute, said in a statement that the names of approximately 40,000 voters in Cuyahoga County were purged in 2015 “and a disproportionate number of those people came from low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.”
Husted told the court that it needed to get involved because a growing number of states had similar procedures.
But opponents said only a handful of states do what Ohio does and that the justices should wait for the issue to be examined by other courts.
The case, which will be argued in the term that begins in October, is Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute.
In some editions, a previous version of this article misstated when the Supreme Court decided it would hear the Ohio case. The decision was made Tuesday..