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McFeatters: Supreme Court throws out Arizona's voter-ID law

The Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C. on

The Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C. on March 31, 2012. Photo Credit: Getty Images

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that states cannot add on their own additional red-tape requirements before issuing a federal registration form entitling the holder to vote.

The National Voter Registration Act of 1993, the so-called "Motor Voter Act," allowed applicants to register to vote when they were applying for a driver's license or certain other benefits. No proof other than the applicant's word for U.S. citizenship was required. It was a time when government was worried about declining voter participation, and making it easier to register seemed an easy and direct way to increase turnout.

But that was before the Great Immigration Panic. States like Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Kansas and Tennessee began to attract great numbers of immigrants, both legal and illegal, and those that voted tended to do so for the Democrats.

The demographics were clearly going against the Republicans; it was what helped elect President Barack Obama.

One course to remedy this would be an aggressive outreach program to Hispanics, young voters and women disaffected from the GOP. The other course -- and, regrettably, one that most state Republican parties opted for -- was to hold down turnout by making it difficult to register.

Arizona State University research predicts that the traditionally Republican state could change from red to blue in 2025, thanks to disproportionately large numbers of Hispanics coming of voting age. The report said that the Hispanic share of the voting population will rise from 25 percent to 35 percent by 2030 and that they will tend to vote Democratic.

Under a ballot proposition that voters approved in 2004, would-be registrants were required to produce an Arizona driver's license, a U.S. passport, a birth certificate or other form of government ID just to get the federal registration form.

The high court ruled 7 to 2 Monday that Arizona could not constitutionally introduce legislation that trumped or modified federal law.

The court did note, with Justice Antonin Scalia writing for the majority, that Arizona could petition the federal government for permission to add "state specific" requirements, such as extra documents, to obtain the registration form.

In view of the demographics, this hardly seems a battle worth Arizona fighting. The state can apply to the federal Election Assistance Commission for an exemption.

If the additional requirements are as simple and straightforward as Arizona officials say, that should be no problem except for one teensy drawback: The commission currently has no members.