Archive for the ‘Supreme Court’ Category

From the land of the truly nuts:

  • As I said in a post the other day national focus has turned to AZ again primarily due to Senator McCan’t and his Border charades.  The Senator’s antics were no doubt timed to coincide not only with the state GOP’s vote of no confidence, but also to the appointment of the newest Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, who has only been in office since Dec. 23, 2013.  Sec. Johnson is getting familiarized with the gargantuan task of running such a massive department, so it must be the perfect time for Sen. McCain to start hammering said department on the efficiency and effectiveness of their border security program.  Sec. Johnson will be visiting the Tucson sector of the Arizona border with Mexico this week.  Let’s hope the press leaves him alone so he can get to work sooner rather than later…although if Sen. McCain has his way, Johnson will be hounded every step of the way, I’m sure.
  • Since it is MLK Day, there will be lots of stories about his legacy such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which is fitting.  It should also be a day to remember that the fight for those Rights did not end in 1965 and recently has heated up.  Just this past year, a US Supreme Court case gutted the law, so states like Arizona went right back to their old shenanigans.  Since then States controlled by Republican governors and/or legislatures been involved in attempts to limit access to polling stations, remove methods of voting, and limit who can vote (mainly using new Voter ID laws or outright removing people from the state’s registration lists).  Of  course, these all target traditionally Democratic voters like African Americans, Native Americans, the urban poor, women and the young.  Today, of all days, we must remember that we’re still in the ring and the other side is throwing a lot of unanswered punches.
  • Another inmate has died in a Maricopa County jail under Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s reign.   Even though the MCSO is being monitored by the U.S. District Court (because of the pattern of abuses and unethical behavior spotlighted in the Melendres v. Arpaio Civil Rights case), I doubt anything will come from this latest death investigation. After all, who cares about another dead inmate—except their family of course.  They’ll get paid off like they always do and Maricopa County residents will forget and re-elect Arpaio yet again .
  • The incredibly stupid bill to allow people to carry weapons on school campuses is being proposed in the AZ State Legislature again.  It failed to even reach committee last year so let’s hope it suffers a similar fate this time as well.

I wrote the other day about how the new voter ID law in Texas will disenfranchise over a million voters, many of whom are women.  Well, the law went into effect just in time for early voting for the upcoming November 5th elections.  And, as predicted, citizens are already having problems.  A Texas District Judge said she

was flagged for possible voter fraud because her driver’s license lists her maiden name as her middle name, while her voter registration form has her real middle name. This was the first time she has ever had a problem voting in 49 years.

You probably won’t hear about this on the news very much because they’d rather cover the circus in Washington, D.C. While I’ll admit that clowns are distracting, they’re not quite as important as the death rattle of voting rights.

Voter ID laws are all the rage now (North Carolina, Kansas, etc).   Most if not all of these laws were written by a guy from Kansas, Kris Kobach, on behalf of ALEC (an organization I’ve written about before).  You might remember him better as the asswipe who wrote SB1070 Paper’s Please law.     Well, Arizona also passed another Kobach drafted law in 2004 called Proposition 200 that required voters to prove they were citizens instead of letting them just attest to being citizens.

The Inter Tribal Council of America, a Native American organization representing 20 different tribes with reservations in the state, filed suit and the case made it all the way to the Supreme Court (aka, SCOTUS).  Why the Native Americans?  Because many of them are born, live and die on the Reservation and do not have Birth Certificates.  A very large percentage don’t have photo ID’s.  None of that changes the facts that they’re still citizens and they should have the right to vote and be treated equally (14th Amendment and all that).

So SCOTUS FINALLY ruled in June of this year that the National Voting Rights Act of 1993 overrides Arizona Proposition 200 and said that AZ could not reject Federal registration forms using AZ legal standards BUT they didn’t say that the AZ requirements were unconstitutional–just that anyone who used Federal forms can’t be rejected.   Unfortunately, this gives the resident fascists a lovely little opening to screw those pesky voters (who, oh so conveniently happen to be brown and/or female).  AZ Secretary of State, Ken Bennett, has decided that there will be two classes of voters now.  People who register to vote using the AZ state form, which requires proof of citizenship, will be allowed to vote in all elections and sign petitions for initiatives, referenda and recalls.  But those who use/used the Federal form, which only requires the applicant to attest to the fact that they are a citizen, can only vote in Federal elections.

Voting is complicated enough but now they’re trying to specify who has the right to vote and who doesn’t.  This sounds really effing unconstitutional to me and others.  But I’m not hearing about this outrage much in local and state news.   Google searches show up very few articles…one of which is simply an interview that allows Bennett to defend his strategy.

As informed as I am, I don’t even know whether I used a Federal form or a state form.  I’m sure millions of other Arizonans won’t either.  And since they don’t know this is happening, they’re going to be mighty effing shocked when they go to vote in the next election and are told they can’t vote for governor, legislators, ballot initiatives, etc.  But by then it will be too late.  They will have lost their right to vote, the state Republican party will have benefited and any court ruling will be another decade in the future (maybe).  This is another arrow in the heart of democracy and it’s happening far too quietly right under Arizonan’s noses.

It’s not all confetti and party hats this week. The Supreme Court also decided to get rid of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This act required that nine states get pre-approval from the Department of Justice before implementing any voting changes because those states had a history of making changes in voting laws for the express purpose of minimizing the ability of minorities and the poor to vote. Now that pre-approval requirement is gone and boy are Conservatives happy. Of course, Arizona happened to be one of those places (emphasis in the following quote is mine).

In one of the strongest statements welcoming the decision, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said the law requiring federal approval of voting changes “humiliates Arizona by making it say ‘Mother may I’ to the federal government every time it wants to change some remarkably minor laws.”

Ummm, voting is not a “minor law”. It’s a big fucking deal. In fact, it is one of the BIGGEST reasons we live in a free country today. To someone like me, someone who doesn’t have health care and keeps getting turned down, my vote for President Obama meant something very concrete and important. I will be able to get healthcare in 2014 and the insurance companies can’t turn me down. It is very likely that having insurance may save my life at some point in the future (I’m not getting any younger). That’s a BIG fucking deal and my vote helped to make that happen. So please Atty. General Horne sit down and STFU.

Thankfully, it doesn’t mean that states still get to do whatever they want. State laws can still be challenged in court and ruled unconstitutional–Arizona had it’s new voter ID law overturned on a vote of 7-2 by the Supreme Court just last week. The bad part is that judicial oversight happens AFTER the law has passed and done it’s damage. This is all conservative preparation for the 2016 Presidential Race. If they can’t win fair and square, it’s become apparent they’re willing to violate the foundation of democracy in order to tip the scales.

For all those crying in their beer that now people can marry animals, let me remind you that marriage laws are between two CONSENTING adults.  An adult horse cannot consent. Nor can a cow, a pig, a sheep, a manatee, etc, etc, etc.

According to Wonkette:

It would appear that actually treating all marriages as equal in the eyes of the law means the end of America, which would make today roughly the 743rd time America has ended since 2008. We also see that Justice Anthony Kennedy has usurped Barack HUSSEIN Obama’s appointed role as tyrant king, which has got to be pretty disappointing for the Kenyan Impostor. And we really like that phrase “sodomy-based marriage,” which we’ll start using just as soon as Bryan Fischer starts referring to himself as a proponent of “penis-in-vagina marriage.”

Her post is a must read even if it’s just for a look at the hilarious tweets made by conservatives in reaction to the ruling.

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.

Other Sources:

https://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/2012/07/24/this-is-how-democracy-dies/