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Voter purge? What the Supreme Court’s Ohio ruling could mean for Alabama

By WILL WHATLEY, Alabama Daily News

In a 5-4 vote along ideological lines, the United States Supreme Court voted that Ohio’s process to remove inactive voters from the rolls does not run afoul of federal laws aimed at securing voting rights.

The ruling allows Ohio and other states to purge voters from the registration rolls if they have been inactive and unresponsive to efforts to confirm their voter status.

In Alabama, a similar process exists to keep voting rolls current, but some believe it could discourage voters from participating in the electoral process.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said he content with the Supreme Court’s recent ruling.

“I am pleased to see that the Supreme Court upheld the maintenance process used by Ohio to ensure voters rolls are the most accurate for voters on election day,” Merrill said.

According to Merrill, the process in Alabama is slightly different than that of Ohio. It requires voters to miss two federal elections and then not respond to two consecutive mailers which are sent to voters to attempt to ensure the most up-to-date address information is on file with the voter registration system.

“We have made it our mission in the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office to not only ensure every Alabamian is a registered voter with a photo ID but also that the voter information contained within our voter rolls is the most accurate and up-to-date,” Merrill stated. “This process allows us to contact voters to ensure that information is accurate.”

However, not everyone sees the ruling as positive.

Paul Smith, vice president of the federal elections watchdog group Campaign Legal Center, said the ruling creates more obstacles for voters.

“The Supreme Court decision to allow Ohio to purge its citizens from the rolls is a setback for voting rights nationwide,” Smith said.

“Our democracy weakens when states are permitted to take actions that discourage voter participation. By constructing obstacles that make voting more difficult, Ohio is sending the wrong message to its citizens.”

Smith argued the case on behalf of the CLC before the Supreme Court on Jan. 11.

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