The 5-4 Supreme Court decision upholding an Ohio law that uses “special procedures” to remove invalid voter registrations from the rolls is a huge victory for election integrity.
It opens the door to curtailing drastically the too-frequent use of phantom voters to game the electoral system.
Ohio’s law provided that when voters do not show up in two consecutive elections, the state is to send out a mailing asking the voter to respond to keep his or her registration active. The mailing must include a stamped, self-addressed reply envelope to maximize the convenience of replying. If the state gets no response and the voter doesn’t vote in the next two consecutive elections, his or her name is dropped from the rolls.
The Pew Research Foundation has found that 24 million voter registrations in the U.S. are “no longer valid or significantly inaccurate.” That’s about one out of every eight.
Pew reports that more than 1.8 million deceased people are listed as voters and almost 3 million have registrations in more than one state.
Combined with the absence of a photo identification requirement in many states, these inaccuracies invite and enable voter fraud.
It is just too easy to get someone to show up at the polls claiming to be someone who is dead or has moved and to vote.
Indeed, North Carolina reported that upward of 35,000 people might have double voted in the state in 2012, casting ballots there as well as in another state.
In his majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito argued that the Ohio requirement was not unduly burdensome nor would it deter honest people from voting.
“The notice in question here warns recipients that unless they take the simple and easy step of mailing back the preaddressed, 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,” Alito wrote. “It was Congress’s judgment that a reasonable person with an interest in voting is not likely to ignore notice of this sort.”
Indeed, voter fraud might have helped Hillary Clinton carry New Hampshire in the 2016 election. Her margin of victory, in contesting the state’s four electoral votes, was 2,736. But the state’s election officials report that more than 6,540 voters used out-of-state driver’s licenses to vote in the election. This confirms media reports of large numbers of Massachusetts Democrats crossing the border to vote illegally.
Since the 2016 election, only 15 percent of those who voted in New Hampshire using out-of-state licenses have subsequently applied for and gotten an in-state license. Of those who have not sought a New Hampshire license after having voted using an out-of-state license, only 3.3 percent have cars registered in New Hampshire.
More consequential for the country, Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte was defeated by Democrat Maggie Hassan by only 1,017 votes. So voter fraud might have left the GOP with only its current slender margin of control in the Senate.
The Supreme Court decision will allow states to clean up their voter rolls.
Doubtless, the blue states won’t do it. But we can hope that swing states will and that elections will be more honest in the future.