of his failure to vote and that his registration will be cancelled unless he requests reinstatement. The Philadelphia Registration Commission, although not required by the statute, also sends him a second notice. If he requests reinstatement, his registration will not be cancelled. In addition, he can avoid the purge provision of the statute merely by voting. This burden should not trigger the strict scrutiny test.
In reaching this conclusion, we are not unmindful of the cases that have required a stringent standard of review in passing on the constitutionality of restrictions on the right to vote. We think that these cases are distinguishable because either the classifications involved were suspect, or a substantial burden fell on a distinct political group, or the impact on the exercise of the franchise actually precluded voting.
In Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections, 383 U.S. 663, 86 S. Ct. 1079, 16 L. Ed. 2d 169 (1966), the Supreme Court, applying the strict scrutiny equal protection test, declared unconstitutional Virginia's annual $1.50 poll tax. It applied that test, however, because the tax resulted in a classification based on wealth and "[lines] drawn on the basis of wealth or property, like those of race . . ., are traditionally disfavored." Id. at 668, 86 S. Ct. at 1082. It should also be noted that Harper was decided in the context of turmoil over racial discrimination and many Southern states' use of numerous barriers to prevent complete and effective enfranchisement of black citizens. Cf. South Carolina v. Katzenbach, 383 U.S. 301, 86 S. Ct. 803, 15 L. Ed. 2d 769 (1966).
In Bullock v. Carter, 405 U.S. 134, 92 S. Ct. 849, 31 L. Ed. 2d 92 (1972), the Court applied the strict scrutiny standard in finding unconstitutional the Texas candidate qualifying fee scheme, again relying on the existence of a wealth classification. See id. at 144, 92 S. Ct. 849, 856. Bullock was also premised on the existence of an appreciable impact on the exercise of the franchise since voters were "substantially limited in their choice of candidates." This limitation, the Court reasoned, "would fall more heavily on the less affluent segment of the community, whose favorites may be unable to pay the large costs required . . . ." Id. at 144, 92 S. Ct. at 856.
Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330, 92 S. Ct. 995, 31 L. Ed. 2d 274 (1972), also involved a suspect classification, persons who had recently exercised their constitutional right to travel interstate. Moreover, the burden on the right to vote was a complete denial; the franchise could not be gained by any action on the part of the voter.
Williams v. Rhodes, 393 U.S. 23, 89 S. Ct. 5, 21 L. Ed. 2d 24 (1968), involved, as did Bullock, the effective disenfranchisement of a distinct and identifiable political group. Also imposed was a burden on the right of individuals to associate for the advancement of political beliefs.
Kramer v. Union Free School District No. 15, 395 U.S. 621, 89 S. Ct. 1886, 23 L. Ed. 2d 583 (1969), and its progeny, Cipriano v. City of Houma, 395 U.S. 701, 89 S. Ct. 1897, 23 L. Ed. 2d 647 (1969), and City of Phoenix v. Kolodziejski, 399 U.S. 204, 90 S. Ct. 1990, 26 L. Ed. 2d 523 (1970), involved both the complete disenfranchisement of distinct community segments and wealth classifications.
Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 84 S. Ct. 1362, 12 L. Ed. 2d 506 (1964), concerned the diluted effect of the votes actually cast by some voters. Because of malapportionment, a voter could do nothing to make his vote weigh as heavily as that of voters in less populous districts.
In the instant case, no suspect classification is created, no political group is disenfranchised, and no voter is absolutely barred from casting an effective vote.
Although we express no opinion as to the correctness of the result in Beare v. Smith, 321 F. Supp. 1100 (S.D. Tex. 1971), which declared unconstitutional the Texas annual registration requirement, we note that case also differs from the case sub judice. First, Texas required all voters to re-register each year, a burden greater than that imposed by the Pennsylvania purge provisions.
Second, the challenged statute included a requirement that the registration books be closed on January 30th of each year. Third, the court found the system disqualified more than a million persons who would otherwise be permitted to vote. Id. at 1108. None of these factors is present in this case.
Michigan State UAW Community Action Program Council v. Austin, 387 Mich. 506, 198 N.W.2d 385 (1972), based on the state constitution, struck down Michigan's two-year purge statute. To the extent that the analysis is inconsistent with this decision, we decline to follow it.
Although we have decided that the less stringent standard is applicable in this case, the Constitution still requires this court to balance the interests served by the statutory section against the burden on the individual. Some cases have indicated that a statute reviewed under the less stringent standard is to be sustained if the court can find any conceivable legitimate basis to justify it. See, e.g., McDonald v. Board of Election, 394 U.S. 802, 89 S. Ct. 1404, 22 L. Ed. 2d 739. Even under the less stringent standard, however, a court should look to the actual purpose of the statute and balance the importance of that goal and the means chosen to attain it against the burden on the individual right.
Adoption of the less stringent standard should not lead to perfunctory acceptance of the statute's constitutionality.
The principal state interest which the statute protects is the prevention of fraudulent voting. Maintaining voter rolls that include persons who no longer reside in a precinct, or who reside there but do not vote, conduces to fraud. Pennsylvania discovered that political operatives knowledgeable of the status of such registrants and weaknesses in the system were able to cast votes in the non-voters' names. The two-year period allows removal of the names before the political operatives can take advantage of the situation. If the period were four years instead of two, they would have greater opportunity to seize upon the registrant's non-voting status and defeat the purpose of the purge. Such considerations led the state legislature to change the purge period from four to two years in 1941 after considerable public concern over voting fraud. Pub. L. No. 279, § 30 (July 31, 1941),  Pa. Laws 710. Mr. Welsh testified that the change was prompted by a suit instituted in 1940 by the Committee of Seventy, charging fraud by "phantom voters."
Recognition of the legislature's goal in enacting the two-year purge emphasizes that the state is interested in purging not just those registrants who have moved or died (39.8% of the purged registrants in the survey). The state is also interested in those who have neither moved nor voted in two years and who fail to demonstrate a desire to continue their registration (38.5%).
The individual has a strong interest in exercising his right to vote without undue interference. The statute being challenged here does impose some burden on that right, but it is minimal. To prevent being removed from the rolls, a registrant must vote only once every two years or take some action to inform the Commission of his continued residence at the same location. That action can be as simple as returning the notice card with his signature or making a phone call. Moreover, the Commission will restore him to the rolls up to and including election day. The burden does not nearly approach the requirements of initial registration.
We have carefully evaluated the state interest in the maintenance of the two-year purge and its impact on an individual's exercise of the franchise. We are satisfied that the two-year purge bears a rational relationship to a legitimate state end. The legitimate state interest is the maintenance of up-to-date, reliable lists of qualified voters. Prevention of fraud, preservation of public confidence in the electoral process, and determination of the number of election workers to be employed are dependent upon such lists. The record discloses that at the time the legislature reduced the purge period to two years the danger of voting fraud was real and substantial, and that the legislature enacted the provision to combat that problem. This state interest is significant and the purge is closely related to its achievement. Preventing fraud and maintaining up-to-date, reliable registration lists is necessary to preserve the effectiveness of votes legitimately cast and outweighs the minimal burden on the individual's exercise of the franchise.
The Constitution does not preclude a state, acting upon significant evidence of fraud, from requiring an individual either to vote or to inform the Commission of a desire to remain registered. We conclude, therefore, that Pennsylvania's purge provision is not unconstitutional.