In a 5-4 decision (PDF), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state of Ohio’s process for canceling voters’ registrations and removing them from the rolls does not violate the federal National Voter Registration Act’s “failure to vote” clause. Ohio’s process is similar to the one used in Texas.

The Act requires states to take reasonable steps to ensure their registration lists are accurate, which in turn requires the removal of voters who no longer appear to be living at their registered addresses. The Act requires a state notify a voter that he or she will be removed from the list and provide the means for that voter to remain on the list. However, a voter’s registration may not be canceled merely because of a failure to vote.

Ohio’s process begins by identifying voters who did not cast ballots during the previous two years. The state mails a pre-addressed, postage-paid card to those voters’ last known mailing addresses to verify that the their residence is correct. Voters who do not return this card and do not vote for another four years are presumed to no longer reside at that address. They are then removed from the rolls following at least six years of inactivity.

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