Conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices were joined by liberal Stephen Breyer on Wednesday in signaling sympathy toward Ohio’s policy of purging infrequent voters from registration rolls — a practice critics say disenfranchises thousands of people — in a pivotal voting rights case.

The nine justices heard about an hour of arguments in Republican-governed Ohio’s appeal of a lower court ruling that found that the policy violated a federal law aimed at making it easier for Americans to register to vote. The 1993 National Voter Registration Act bars states from striking registered voters “by reason of the person’s failure to vote.”

Indicating he potentially could join the court’s conservatives in a ruling upholding Ohio’s policy as lawful, Breyer noted that a state needs tools to clean up its voter rolls by eliminating people who have died or moved.

Ohio is one of seven states, along with Georgia, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, that erase infrequent voters from registration lists, according to the plaintiffs. They called Ohio’s policy the most aggressive.

The Supreme Court’s ruling, due by the end of June, could affect the ability to vote for thousands of people ahead of November’s congressional elections. The outcome is particularly important for so-called battleground states like Ohio that often have an outsized influence in presidential elections.

Divided Supreme Court may allow Ohio voter purge policy

Conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices were joined by liberal Stephen Breyer on Wednesday in signaling sympathy toward Ohio’s policy of purging infrequent voters from registration rolls — a practice critics say disenfranchises thousands of people — in a pivotal voting rights case.


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