Skip to comments.Appeals Court Gives Arizona Partial Victory on Voter-ID Law
Posted on 04/21/2012 5:06:38 AM PDT by Kaslin
Editor's Note: This column was co-authored by Ken Klukowski, Legal columnist at Breitbart.com.
Arizona might be going to the U.S. Supreme Court yet again. A federal appeals court upheld part of the Grand Canyon States voter-ID law, but struck down another part of Arizonas law as inconsistent with a 1993 federal law. This might become the third citizen/voting Arizona law to go to the Supreme Court in just three years.
Arizona allows for citizens to adopt ballot propositions with the force of law, which trump state statutes but fall short of amending the Arizona Constitution. Arizonas voters adopted Proposition 200 in 2004. It requires showing proof of citizenship when you register to vote, and then showing government-issued photo-ID on Election Day when you cast your ballot.
Several individuals and groups sued, arguing that these requirements violate two provisions of the U.S. Constitution and also the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA), which had been passed by a Democrat-controlled Congress and signed by Bill Clinton. After years of litigation, the case was decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Although federal appeals are heard by three-judge panels, on rare occasions the full appeals court will reconsider a panel decision in what is called an en banc rehearing. The Ninth Circuit is so large (almost thirty active-service judges) that when it does an en banc rehearing the courts chief judge hears it, along with ten other judges chosen at random. They took this unusual step in this case, Gonzalez v. Arizona.
Judge Sandra Ikutaappointed by George W. Bushwrote the majority opinion. In 2008 the Supreme Court upheld Indianas voter-ID law in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board in a 6-3 decision. Arizonas law is similar to Indianas, so the Court upheld it easily, holding that Arizonas law is consistent with the U.S. Constitution.
Not so the provision requiring people show proof of citizenship when registering. The traditional way to register is by filling out a state form at your county courthouse or county building. NVRA created two new ways a person can register to vote in federal elections. One is by filling out the state form at your local Department of Motor Vehicles office, and the third is by filling out a federal form at home and submitting it by mail. The plaintiffs in the Gonzalez case used the federal formwhich makes you declare that you are an American citizen but does not ask for proofand says that Arizonas law violates NVRA.
The general rule is that when a federal and state laws conflict, federal law wins. This almost always happens under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution. But election law issues arise under the Elections Clause of the Constitution, which says that states have primary responsibility for conducting elections but that Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such [state] Regulations.
The Supreme Court has previously held that the Elections Clause sets a higher bar for states than the Supremacy Clause. To respect state sovereignty, courts presume a state law is not preempted by federal law under the Supremacy Clause unless Congress makes explicitly clear that it wants to trump the states. If that were the rule in Gonzalez, then Arizonas law would win on both issues in this case.
But the Supreme Court has not to date applied that same rule to election laws. Instead, it has said that federal election law automatically displaces state election laws. So even though there is a way to make Arizonas statute coexist alongside NVRA, the Ninth Circuit held that Arizonas citizenship-proof requirement must go.
Chief Judge Alex Kozinski joined the majority, but also wrote a separate concurring opinion. In it Kozinksi observed that, the Supreme Court has never articulated any doctrine of giving deference to the states under the Elections Clause A case such as ours, where the statutory language is unclear and the state has a compelling interest in avoiding fraudulent voting by large numbers of unqualified electors, presents a far more suitable case for decide whether we should defer to state interests. But only the Supreme Court can adopt such a doctrine.
So the messy split here, with some judges voting to strike down one provision, others voting to uphold both, and others voting to strike down both, might make this a tempting case for the Supreme Court to take. The fact that Kozinskia libertarian appointed by Ronald Reagan and one of the most brilliant judges on the entire federal benchwrote that only the Supreme Court can reorient the Elections Clause, and that it should do so here, increases the odds that the justices will take the case.
In the end, this was an important win for voter-ID laws. And if the justices take this case it could become a broad-based win that would strengthen state sovereignty and diminish centralized federal control of the democratic process on Election Day. That would be a welcome development.
If you’d told me 20 years ago that there would be a controversy about whether people should have to prove who they are when they vote, I’d have told you, “You’re insane!”
Instead, the country’s gone insane.
Instead, my vote is diluted by the votes of people who do not have the right to vote. MY rights are violated by each instance.
Sadly, I suspect the Voter ID laws may influence outcomes to some extent but the real problem is “Ballot Box Stuffing” which takes place in Detroit, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and may other cities across the nation. Legitimate votes are so watered down that it is hard to overcome the numbers. In Wisconsin, for example, George Bush lost by something like 7,000 votes - this could easily be manufactured in Milwaukee and Dane county. We need rules that guarantee that the number of ballots counted match the number of “legitimate” votes. We need to combine Voter ID laws with the checks and balances of matching numbers. Both Maine and Pennsylvania had more votes in their states that they had Registered Voters in the 2000 election and yet this was never even addressed by our biased press - instead they put all their focus on “hanging chads” since that would help “Their” side .
I am truly surprised that no state has yet adopted a “fingerprint law” solely for voting. It would have to include a strictly guarded database of the fingerprints of eligible voters, along with small, sealed portable touch pad machines that could be taken to invalids by a two person, bipartisan team of election officials, weeks before the general election.
Voting would be downright simple, once your fingerprint was in the central computer for use by the voting office only.
With the first fingerprint on the touch pad, it would verify *to you* who you were and where you lived, based on your registration. If the information was incorrect you could correct it, or have that two person election team do so for you on the spot.
Then with a touch, you would select from candidates and other choices. Who and what you voted for would be confirmed on a final screen. Then you verify your fingerprint one more time and your vote is recorded.
Once you were done, it would automatically reset to a blank screen, ready for the next person’s fingerprint.
Of course, the feds would find a database of fingerprints irresistible and want access to it, so it would have to be very clear in state law that nobody could do an unauthorized access the database even with a federal warrant, outside of the window of voting. Lots of other safeguards as well.