Rick Hasen on Arizona’s Prop. 200 voter registration case before the U.S. Supreme Court


Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Rick Hasen at Election Law Blog posted a summary of Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council, the Prop. 200 voter registration case argued before the U.S. Supreme Court this morning. Sleeper Case of the Year?:

In brief, the question is whether Arizona can refuse to accept a simple
federal form for voter registration (which Congress in the 1993 National
Voter Registration Act required states to accept), on grounds Congress
has exceeded its constitutional power under the Elections Clause  to “make or alter” state rules for congressional voting.

I’ll be writing more about the case after
I read the transcript, but at this point I can say the following: This
is one of those cases where if the Supreme Court affirms the result in
this case (that Arizona must accept the federal form), it will be no big
deal, but if the Court reverses it would mark a major change in U.S.
election law.

Many earlier Supreme Court cases noted Congress’s broad
power to set rules for federal elections. For example, here’s the Court
in the 1997 case, Foster v. Love:

The Elections Clause of the Constitution, Art. I, §4, cl.
1, provides that “[t]he Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections
for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by
the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or
alter such Regulations.” The Clause is a default provision; it invests
the States with responsibility for the mechanics of congressional
elections, see Storer v. Brown, 415 U.S. 724, 730 (1974), but only so far as Congress declines to pre-empt state legislative choices, see Roudebush v. Hartke, 405 U.S. 15,
24 (1972) (“Unless Congress acts, Art. I, §4, empowers the States to
regulate”). Thus it is well settled that the Elections Clause grants
Congress “the power to override state regulations” by establishing
uniform rules for federal elections, binding on the States. U.S. Term
Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, 514 U.S. 779,
832—833 (1995). “[T]he regulations made by Congress are paramount to
those made by the State legislature; and if they conflict therewith, the
latter, so far as the conflict extends, ceases to be operative.” Ex
parte Siebold, 100 U.S. 371, 384 (1880).

(My emphasis.) A contrary ruling in the Arizona case would
alter the state-federal balance over federal elections and give states a
greater ability to manipulate election rules for partisan reason
something especially dangerous in the era of the Voting Warsnot
to mention preventing Congress from imposing uniform voting standards
in the U.S.
, such as the requirement that we elect all members of
Congress from single-member districts.

For a comprehensive legal analysis of the briefs submitted in this case, see Lyle Denniston at Scotusblog.com. Argument preview: Election integrity, or voter suppression?