By David G. Savage

The Supreme Court made it easier Monday for states to remove occasional voters from the rolls, upholding an Ohio law that drops voters who fail to cast a ballot and do not respond to several notices.

In a 5-4 decision, the justices agreed with Ohio Republicans who said they sought to clean up the voting rolls and drop people who have moved and left the area. The court said that nationwide, 24 million voter registrations are estimated to be inaccurate or invalid, mostly people who have moved.

The four liberal justices dissented and said the ruling would allow officials to wrongly purge voters who sat out an election or two and did not respond to a notice in the mail.

Civil rights lawyers had sued Ohio and argued that tens of thousands of voters in Cleveland and other big cites had been wrongly removed from voting rolls. They won an appeals court ruling that held the state was violating the federal "Motor Voter Act" by removing voters simply for a "failure to vote."

But the Supreme Court took up Ohio's appeal and reversed the lower court.

Justice Samuel A. Alito said Ohio's procedure "does not strike any registrant solely by reason of the failure to vote. Instead, as expressly permitted by federal law, it removes registrants only when they have failed to vote and have failed to respond to a change-of-residence."

The decision in Husted vs. A. Philip Randolph Institute split the court along familiar lines. The five conservatives, all Republican appointees, formed the majority, while the four dissenters were Democratic appointees.

(c)2018 Los Angeles Times