Today, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Ohio’s aggressive purging of voting rolls. Basically, they’re saying a state can “unregister” people to vote if they skip a couple elections and fail to respond to a notice from state election officials. Here’s how you can make sure that doesn’t happen to you.
To clarify, it’s actually against U.S. federal law to remove people from voter rolls “by reason of the person’s failure to vote,” but that’s technically not what’s happening here. There are a number of reasons you could be removed from voter rolls, but what the Supreme Court has decided is that it’s okay for election officials to send a confirmation notice to voters who they suspect has moved if they failed to vote in recent elections. So, Ohio and other states can’t purge voter rolls simply because people failed to vote, but they can send confirmation notices, then purge the voters who fail to respond—which is something Ohio is doing aggressively.
While it makes sense that a state would like to maintain a clean, accurate voter roll as best they can, this ruling still sets a problematic precedent for a significant portion of the population. It’s already difficult for some to vote in every election—like the poor, the disabled, the homeless, the elderly, and those without access to transportation—and this only makes it tougher for them to remain registered so their voice can be heard. Imagine finally making it to a polling station only to be told you’ve been kicked off the roll because you missed a piece of mail.
If you don’t want that to happen to you in your state, there are a couple of things you can do. First, you can vote in every election, which you probably should be doing anyway if you’re able. Consistently voting means state officials won’t think you’ve moved or died, and therefore they won’t even send the confirmation notice. So, if anything, this is a stark reminder that it’s important to vote, even if it’s not a presidential election. Go get those stickers, people. It’s your right and your duty.
The other thing you can do is check on your voter registration status. Websites like Headcount.org and Vote.org have tools that will guide you to your state’s websites or give you toll-free phone numbers you can call that will tell you if you’re registered, and for what party. In fact, go ahead and do that right now to be safe. If you’ve been kicked from the roll, if you haven’t registered yet, or if you need to update your personal information, do so as soon as possible. Every state has voter registration deadlines you have to meet in order to vote. In California, for example, you need to be registered at least 15 days before the election, otherwise you’ll have to submit a provisional ballot at the same time you register in the polling office. But every state is different, so double check the election dates and deadlines at the U.S. Vote Foundation’s website.
Every U.S. citizen is guaranteed the right to vote, but the Supreme Court has essentially decided that you need to fulfill some minor responsibilities in order to maintain that right. Stay active, stay vigilant, and stay up to date until this ruling changes—if it ever does.