Once again Arizona, land of few taxes and no services, has spent a ton of money and time defending yet another unconstitutional law. The notoriously right leaning Supreme Court struck down Arizona’s Prop 200 Voter ID law by a vote of 7-2. Their reasoning was, to put it simply, that the Arizona law interfered with Federal Law.
Essentially, a 1993 Federal Law established a uniform procedure for voter registration for all 50 states that said anyone who swore an oath that they were a U.S. citizen under penalty of perjury and signed that oath could be registered to vote. The Arizona law entitled, “Arizona Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act,” required anyone without a driver’s license to provide proof of citizenship via a birth certificate or passport. I’ve discussed this many times before. Just because you have a driver’s license doesn’t mean you’re a citizen and many citizens don’t drive and therefore don’t even have a driver’s license. Furthermore, getting a copy of a birth certificate is not as easy as it sounds for many people, it costs money, and it takes quite a bit of time. All of this is true for passports. Study after study after study have shown that this kind of voter ID law ends up causing less voter turn out among the following kinds of citizens: the elderly, urban non-driving residents, and the lower socioeconomic classes (in which minorities tend to be disproportionately represented and they tend to vote Democratic).
For many years after 1993, that signed oath was deemed sufficient until the 2000 Presidential election. You remember the “hanging chad” debacle and how the Supreme Court handed the Presidency to George W. Bush on a platter after a suspicious vote recount in the State of Florida. The irony is that conservatives won that round but came out of the process thinking that if they can rig the process, then the liberals will try to do it too. Except the liberals didn’t. The 1993 law remained in place and not a whole lot changed EXCEPT for many states willingly adopting early, mail-in ballots which everyone agreed helped increase voter turn out and saved people time and money.
Still, there were calls for investigations by conservatives who insisted it was happening. The story that Mickey Mouse registered to vote will live in infamy regardless of how false it is. So investigations were completed during the Bush tenure and they found so few incidents of voter fraud that it was something like less than one one hundredths of a percentage. And of the fraud found, all of the perpetrators had been caught and prosecuted trying to vote in more than one polling location AND their vote didn’t count. In a country of 350 million people that low of a violation right is a testament to how sacred we hold the right to vote. It’s damn important and we treat it so.
Still conservatives pushed the idea that fraud was happening because it scares their base and that motivates them to get out and vote. That kind of fear mongering always seems to work on a certain percentage of any population and it worked here. Combined with a lot of dog whistles during the 2008 Presidential campaign, fear of voting fraud reached a fever pitch. So when President Obama won that election, it was all the proof they needed. Why they couldn’t fathom that millions of white people like me would vote for a brown person like him, is beyond my understanding.
In any case, the result was a rash of new state laws to control the voting process and voter ID laws like Arizona’s Prop 200. There have been other laws attempting to limit the hours of voting locations, to limit or entirely eliminate early voting opportunities (Think it was Ohio that tried to say that only military families had the right to vote via early ballot), and to purge voter lists based on how foreign someone’s name sounds (FL, I’m looking at you). When they couldn’t get a law passed or couldn’t get it passed fast enough to affect an election, particularly the 2012 Presidential election, they tried a more hands-on method of imposing themselves at polling stations and attempting to be the guardians of the ballot box. Thankfully this kind of behavior simply motivated liberals all the more and alienated quite a few moderates.
In any case, the Supreme Court finally made a good decision based on sound principle. Federal law is the supreme law of the land and the states cannot pass a law that is stricter than the Federal law. So what’s next? How will they try to destroy the voting process? Because make no mistake about it, they’re trying to steal elections. They’ve succeeded in gerrymandering congressional districts and we won’t be able to reverse that for another decade or more. The last thing I heard was an attempt to split up electoral votes based on those same biased congressional districts in states like Pennsylvania and Virginia. Gird your loins folks, we got work to do.