With the conservative bloc controlling a 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court today upheld Ohio’s aggressive purge of voters who fail to vote in a federal election.

Federal law says non-voting can’t disqualify a voter. But Ohio uses a non-vote as an excuse to check whether a voter has moved and if the voter doesn’t respond properly, the voter is removed from the rolls. The Supreme Court majority said a failure to vote could justify beginning the process to check addresses.


The purges have consequences. The law previously had been struck down in a lower court.

Without that decision, “the ballots of more than 7,500 eligible Ohioans would have gone uncounted in the November 2016 election,” Mr. Harmon’s lawyers at Demos, a liberal think-tank, and the American Civil Liberties Union wrote in a Supreme Court brief.

A Reuters study in 2016 found that at least 144,000 people were removed from the voting rolls in recent years in Ohio’s three largest counties, which are home to Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus.

“Voters have been struck from the rolls in Democratic-leaning neighborhoods at roughly twice the rate as in Republican neighborhoods,” the study found. “Neighborhoods that have a high proportion of poor, African-American residents are hit the hardest.”

This is part of a national Republican strategy, including voter ID laws, aimed at suppressing turnout of voters believed inclined to vote Democratic.