Arizona, Kansas Follow SCOTUS Voter ID Ruling With Narrow Vote Suppression Plan, Announce 'La-La-La I Can't Hear You'
Well, Wonketteers, didwe ever jump the gun back in June! We went and celebrated the Supreme Court's smackdown of Arizona's dumb voter-registration law, which required people to show a photo ID in order to register to vote. Basically, the SCOTUS held that states can't have more restrictive registration requirements than federal law, and since the 1993 National Voter Registration Act only required people to swear they're citizens, Arizona's 2004 law, called Proposition 200, was invalid. A similar restriction in Kansas was thrown out by the same ruling. But in a charming illustration of that line from Jurassic Park, "Slimy vote-suppressing racism finds a way," both those states have figured out a nifty catch: Since the ruling only covers voting in federal elections, they can still require a photo ID for state and local elections. A wave of the 10th Amendment wand, and wallah! Out of the hat jumps a two-tiered voting system!
Kansas State Election Director Brad Bryant sent an email to county election officials in July, explaining how they can comply with the Court's ruling but still keep a finger just an inch away from voters' faces, assuring them that they're not being touched:
"As the Supreme Court made clear, its decision applies only to 'federal registration forms' and covers only federal elections," Bryant wrote, according to a copy of the email provided to TPM. "States remain free to require proof of citizenship from voters who seek to also vote in state elections."
That's some catch! So now Kansas is working to do exactly that -- if people register to vote using a federal form that requires no ID, they will only be able to vote in national elections, and will be given a ballot that only includes candidates for federal office. If they want to vote in state and local elections, they'd better have their papers in order. But that's OK, really, because as we all know, everybody who needs one can easily obtain a valid photo ID these days, right?
"It's very frustrating to watch a public official go about voter suppression under the color of law," Kansas state Rep. Jim Ward (D), an opponent of voter ID, told TPM in an interview on Monday. "I just think it's reprehensible. It will create chaos on election day. ... There's a lot of advocacy groups now talking about registering people with the federal form."
Arizona isn't quite as up to speed as Kansas when it comes to instituting a separate voting underclass that can vote for Congress but not for governor, but they're working on it with the sort of industry that would be admirable if it were channeled toward ensuring that everyone could vote:
On Monday, state Attorney General Tom Horne (R) sent a 16-page opinion to Secretary of State Ken Bennett (R). In it, Horne concluded that individuals who do not submit a citizenship document when registering to vote using the federal form are not eligible to vote for state and local races. Horne also stated that Arizona law allows the issuance of federal-races-only ballots to voters who registered using the federal form. According to Horne, Arizona law does not require a single ballot containing local, state, and federal races together, and the court's have not barred a two-tier voting system.
"The courts that have examined dual registration systems have not specifically addressed an evidence-of-citizenship requirement," Horne wrote in his opinion, which was publicly released. "Instead, the courts have disapproved dual registration systems for reasons distinguishable from the situation presented here."
Translation: "Hot damn! I'm pretty sure we can get away with this! Whoohoo! In your face, 7-2 Supreme Court majority!"
It's not yet clear whether the states' brilliant new voter suppression plans will manage to win approval from federal courts in time for the 2014 elections, but their supporters remain very hopeful that they won't have to let too many of the wrong people vote.
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