Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Vote Suppression Tactic #1: Thwarted

A Federal appeals court announced yesterday that states could not require proof of voters' citizenship when they register. Congress had acted in 1993 to require voters to swear that they were a citizen, meet age requirements, and prove identity. A three-judge panel that included former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor announced yesterday that this federal regulation is a ceiling to regulation and not a floor; states cannot build additional requirements to register vote on top of it. The ruling expunged a section of a 2004 Arizona voting law which had resulted in tens of thousands of registered voters being purged from the voter rolls.
[Plaintiff's attorney] Perales said state officials have used the law to disqualify 30,000 people who filled out federal registration forms attesting to their citizenship. She said a disproportionate number were Latinos, including naturalized citizens who were wrongly disqualified because their driver's license numbers did not reflect their citizenship.
The ruling only has effect in the 9th circuit, but the principle should guide states everywhere: the federal government has occupied the field of determining proof of identity and citizenship in order to register to vote. State laws which require more than the federal requirements will be struck down.

It should be noted that because the law had been enforced via voting roll purge that many voters registered to vote, received their voter registration cards, then showed up at a polling place on election day and were not allowed to vote. Voting roll purges occur with little oversight. The constitutional action in this case takes place under the Elections clause which was designed to frustrate States' attempts to undermine federal elections. Preventing lawful voters from registering to vote for trivial reasons like them not having a passport or copy of their birth certificate about them when they register seems to me like interference. I need to write a paper so here's the opinion. Go read it.

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