Stuart Naifeh, senior counsel at Demos, which led the legal team challenging Ohio's voter-removing practice, cautioned against other states seeing the ruling as green light to engage in similar voter purging efforts. If they do not respond and do not vote over the following four years, they are removed from the rolls. And in a scathing separate dissent, Justice Sotomayor reminded the Court that it was perverting the entire objective of the motor-voter law by construing it as permissive toward voter purges - particularly those which, like Ohio's, disproportionately affects minority voters, which the same law prohibits.
The process is one of two methods state officials use to identify voters who are no longer eligible to vote due to a change of residence.
"The notice in question here warns recipients that unless they take the simple and easy step of mailing back the pre-addressed, postage prepaid card - or take the equally easy step of updating their information online - their names may be removed from the voting rolls if they do not vote during the next four years", he wrote. But not everyone who moves notifies the post office, the state said. More than half the voters in OH fail to cast a ballot over a two-year period, the group said, and those who receive the state's notices simply throw them away. He is joined by his four conservative colleagues.
"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". Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a concurring opinion alongside the majority's decision.
Aside from showing the importance of who does and does not get confirmed for the Supreme Court, the decision illustrates the weakness of federal voting-rights laws.
"We are now only 5 months from our next federal election and any rush now to remove a backlog of up to 589,000 voters that he has marked for purging will be extremely disruptive and unfair to OH voters", Clyde wrote.
She argued that the ruling from the conservative justices "entirely ignores the history of voter suppression against which the NVRA was enacted and upholds a program that appears to further the very disenfranchisement of minority and low-income voters that Congress set out to eradicate".
OH has used voters' inactivity to trigger the removal process since 1994, although groups representing voters did not sue the Republican secretary of state, Jon Husted, until 2016. But civil rights groups decried the decision, saying the Supreme Court should make it easier for people to vote rather than allowing states to put up roadblocks. A three-judge panel on that court had ruled 2-1 that Ohio's practice was illegal.