Supreme Court Makes It Easier to Vote, Much to the Dismay of Conservatives Everywhere

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Unless you have been living under a rock over the last few years, you know that the GOP has a not-so-new idea to try to win elections: prevent those who would vote against them from being able to vote,in the name of stopping voter fraud, which doesn't really exist in any meaningful way, but is good for scaring wingnuts. Because why bother changing your core beliefs when you can just keep folks you don’t like (read: minorities) from voting? Yay democracy!


Well, the Supreme Court (we say SCOTUS for our nerd cred, of course) has now weighed in, and decided to put the brakes on some states' efforts to make it harder to vote. Since this is kinda a BFD, let’s Wonksplain, shall we?

Take it away, fair goddess of all things court-related Nina Totenberg:

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday struck down a state-mandated requirement that prospective voters in Arizona provide proof of citizenship to be able to register to vote in national elections…The case before the court involved a federal law that allows people to register to vote by mail using a federal form that requires the registrant to swear, under penalty of perjury, that he or she is a citizen. Arizona went further than the federal law and added a requirement that the registrant provide a passport, birth certificate or other proof of citizenship to register.

But the Supreme Court, by a 7-2 vote, invalidated the state requirement as pre-empted by federal law.

Back in 1993, Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act, an act designed to make it easier for people to vote. All ya gotta do is fill out a simple form, swear under penalty of perjury that you are a citizen, and whiz-bang-boom you can throw your vote away on Ralph Nader! The idea and intent behind the law was to do away with complicated and overburdensome state registration forms; Congress went so far as to say that states had to “accept and use” the federal form, because tyranny federal preemption.

Then in 2004 some Arizona Exceptionalists decided that they would accept and use the federal form, but also have people fill out a complicated and overburdensome state form, too. Because apparently “accept and use” is tough to understand.

So along comes this school janitor named Jesus Gonzalez. On the day he becomes a U.S. citizen, he tried to register to vote, because he was excited about democracy or something, the poor deluded fool. Here’s the story:

The first time he tried to register, he followed instructions on the state form and supplied his naturalization number. But, as it turned out, the state had no way to verify that number with the Department of Homeland Security. On his next try, he entered his driver's license number -- another document the state said would be acceptable. But, as it turned out, because he had obtained his license when he was a legal resident but not yet a citizen, the license was flagged as issued to a "foreigner," unbeknownst to him.

Man, that sucks. And fuck you, Arizona, for literally denying Jesus the right to vote -- TWICE. And yay for SCOTUS for correcting this miscarriage of justice.

Even more surprising was the fact that Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the majority opinion. Scalia is one of the most conservative justices, known for taking hunting trips with VPOTUS Dick Cheney and not getting shot in the face.

Back to the case. According to people who study this stuff, it wasn’t just Hispanics who were denied voter registration:

[A]fter the Arizona proof of citizenship law was enacted, voter registration dropped 44 percent in the state's most populous county. And it wasn't just Hispanics who were being turned down, Perales [person who knows stuff] says. Eighty percent of those who were rejected were non-Hispanic whites.

Of course, there are rightwing nutjobs who are all argle bargle over this SCOTUS decision. Since Wonket is known far and wide as an impartial political site, it is only fair to give rat-faced gasbags who try to use race-baiting to get people stirred up about this issue a little space. Quoted in WaPo:

“The integrity of our nation’s elections suffered a blow today from the Supreme Court,” said Tom Fitton, president of the conservative legal group Judicial Watch. “This issue takes on increasing urgency with the prospect of 11 million illegal immigrants being given amnesty. It is essential that our elections be secured by ensuring that only citizens register to vote.”

Is this whole voter fraud by people even a thing? According to a thorough look at the issue over elections since 2000, there were about 400 cases of voter registration fraud… out of 146 million registered voters in the United States. So if trends hold true, and if Congress magically grants amnesty to 11 million illegal immigrants (not gonna happen), that means that there might be 30 or so who fraudulently register to vote. Not exactly what we could call a blow to our national elections.

And, apparently, no one told Tom Fitton that this law actually prevented mostly non-Hispanic whites from registering to vote. Then again, maybe Tom has a fear of socialist Canadians overrunning the Northern border and illegally voting in Arizona. Seems like a reasonable fear. Maybe he should join Rep. Steve King cowering in his office.

[NPR/WaPo/Bangor Daily News]

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