A Temporary Victory For Voting Rights

On Monday the Supreme Court invalidated an Arizona law passed in 2004 that requires people registering to vote to provide proof of citizenship at the time of registration. But, as Lyle Denniston explains, Scalia’s majority opinion suggested a way around the ruling:

On the particular point at issue in this case — Arizona’s requirement of proof of citizenship before one may register to vote or actually vote — the Scalia opinion said that a state was free to ask the federal government for permission to add that requirement.  And, Scalia said, if that doesn’t work — either because the federal agency that would deal with such a request is either not functioning or says no — then a state would be free to go to court and make an argument that it has a constitutional right to insist on proof of citizenship as an absolute qualification for voting, in all elections.

Arizona officials have already begun (pdf) to pursue this suggestion. Emily Bazelon zooms out:

As Jonathan Alter points out in his new book, The Center Holds, voter ID and other impediments led to a backlash against Republicans in 2012, energizing minority voters to go to the polls in the key states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, and Florida.

[University of California, Irvine, law professor Rick] Hasen cautions against getting too giddy, however. “It’s a mixed bag,” he says of the current state of make-it-harder-to-vote laws. A lot of the voter ID laws that spruced up versions of the voter ID laws that were on hold in the last election will probably be enforced next time around, including in Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin. Take a look at this handy map and you’ll see that 11 states require photo ID to vote, and 19 states impose other kinds of requirements. Monday’s Supreme Court ruling doesn’t change any of that. It knocks down four states’ extra requirements for one form of voter registration. But to actually show up and cast a ballot, in a lot of places, you still have to prove who you are.