WASHINGTON, D.C. (NEXSTAR) – Critics say Ohio is punishing people for not voting by taking them off the voter rolls.
Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments about whether the way Ohio clears its voter rolls is legal.
The case centers around a man who didn’t vote in 2009 or 2011 and couldn’t vote in 2015 because his name had been removed from the voter rolls.
The state argues that it is preventing voter fraud by purging the voter rolls, while opponents say the method takes away people’s right to vote.
“This case is about removing people who the state believes have moved out of the district where they vote,” said Alan Morrison, a George Washington University law professor.
Under current law, if someone has not voted in two years, that triggers a process that could eventually kick them off the rolls.
The state must then try to contact the voter. If the voter doesn’t respond to the notices and doesn’t vote in the next four years, the state removes them from the rolls.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted said that protects against voter fraud.
“My goal has always been to make Ohio a place where it’s easy to vote and hard to cheat,” he said.
Senator Sherrod Brown said the purges inevitably take legitimate, legal voters off the rolls.
“The [Secretary of State] needs to do it more precisely and not this wholesale removing of people who will lose their right to vote,” he said.
If the court decides that Ohio can no longer purge its voter rolls in this way, at least six other states may have to change their practices.
“On the other hand, there are 40-plus states that don’t do this, and many of them may start to do this for political reasons,” Morrison said.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) said if the court sides with Ohio, it could unleash a wave of new state and local laws resulting in unnecessary purging and shrinking of voter rolls.
Among other activist groups fighting against the law are the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the League of Women Voters.
The Trump administration supports the State of Ohio.
Senator Rob Portman’s office said Portman didn’t have anything to say about the case and likely would not until after the court issues a ruling.