Fri, June 21, 2013- On June 17, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the right of every eligible American to register to vote using a national standard that eliminates unnecessary barriers. The decision was authored by one of the court’s strongest state’s rights advocates, Justice Antonin Scalia.
The Arizona Republic said in a March 19 editorial that Proposition 200 isn’t useful. We agree. That's why Arizona Advocacy Network spearheaded the challenge of Prop. 200 in 2005 and why we are celebrating the court’s validation.
This decision requires Arizona’s election officials to accept the federal voter-registration form without requiring unnecessary documentation. The court, in short, rejects that part of Prop. 200 that has blocked more than 31,000 eligible Arizonans from registering to vote.
That’s nearly the equivalent of disenfranchising the voting populations of Kingman, Prescott and Sierra Vista. Imagine the outrage if that occurred.
Arizona citizens are big winners with this victory. The right to vote – for all Americans – was hard won, requiring a civil war and the adoption of five constitutional amendments. Laws that weaken the right to vote are unwise and push against the constitutional grain.
Prop. 200 is, and always was, a political tool to make voting harder by frightening citizens with unsubstantiated and disingenuous claims of rampant voter fraud. Underlying the movement to suppress the vote is cynicism about honest Americans and fear of the power of an engaged citizenry.
The negativity is evident in criticism of the court’s decision and legislation like Senate Bill 1454, House Bill 2305 and HB 2593, laws passed this legislative session that create unnecessary obstacles to voting and restrict civic participation while empowering big-money and wealthy special interests.
While states like Colorado are making it easier to vote and increasing election integrity, Arizona politicians are working to discourage voting to retain power. Arizona officials now plan to waste more taxpayer dollars by appealing a second time to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, an agency currently with no commissioners or decision-making authority.
As reported by The Republic's Mary Jo Pitzl, many citizens believe that officials continue to attack voting rights, eroding the confidence of every citizen who values the integrity of our electoral system. We have to question the sincerity of those who trumpet fears that ineligible residents are rushing to the polls, while simultaneously swinging the door wide open for foreign corporations and individuals to join big-money groups intent on swaying our elections through massive political spending.
Arizonans expect and deserve free, fair and accessible elections. Arizona officials should welcome the Supreme Court’s decision against Prop. 200, which furthers this goal. It is time to insist they discard their strategy of imposing more restrictions on voters while empowering super PACs and wealthy individuals who can buy influence with campaign cash.
The National Voter Registration Act moves us in the right direction, facilitating the noble work of civic-engagement organizations and allowing tens of thousands of new Americans to register to vote. Arizona Advocacy Network and other reputable non-partisan groups stand ready to help elections officials ensure the accuracy of federal form applications and improve the integrity of our elections through voter education and voter-friendly policies.
Arizonans want to move forward, together. It’s time for politicians to embrace the Supreme Court’s decision and work inclusively for government of, by and for the people.
Sam Wercinski is executive director and Dr. Doris Marie Provine is president of Arizona Advocacy Network.