Lost in the chatter of the shutdown and debt ceiling debate is news of another attack on the rights of voters. This time, it’s not Texas or North Carolina. The latest two states to jump on the “Eff the Right to Vote” bandwagon are Arizona and Kansas.
Both have decided to sue the Federal Elections Commission in an attempt to enforce their interpretation of the 2013 Supreme Court ruling on Arizona v the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona. In that case, the SCOTUS ruled that Arizona’s 2004 law that required a voter to prove their citizenship when registering to vote and providing an ID when casting a ballot violated the 1993 National Voter Registration Act. As part of their suit, they want to create two separate voting requirements for federal elections and state/local elections. I’m hoping this isn’t part of that grand scheme to “Take my country back” that started back in 2009 with the election of the current president.
Now Arizona and Kansas — which passed a similar proof-of-citizenship law in 2011 — are arguing that the Supreme Court’s decision applies only to federal elections and that those who register using the federal form cannot vote in state and local elections. The two states have sued the Election Assistance Commission and are setting up a two-tiered system of voter registration, which could disenfranchise thousands of voters and infringe on state and federal law.
The tactics of Arizona and Kansas recall the days of segregation and the Supreme Court’s 1896 “separate but equal” ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson. “These dual registration systems have a really ugly racial history,” says Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “They were set up after Reconstruction alongside poll taxes, literacy tests and all the other devices that were used to disenfranchise African-American voters.”
In the Jim Crow South, citizens often had to register multiple times, with different clerks, to be able to vote in state and federal elections. It was hard enough to register once in states like Mississippi, where only 6.7 percent of African-Americans were registered to vote before the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And when the federal courts struck down a literacy test or a poll tax before 1965, states like Mississippi still retained them for state and local elections, thereby preventing African-American voters from replacing those officials most responsible for upholding voter disenfranchisement laws.
I find it hard to believe that, in 2013, someone would suggest separate and unequal provisions given the history of this country in addition to the unconstitutional nature of separate but equal policies in general. There may be some things that are appealing about waxing nostalgic, but I don’t think this is one of those cases. The guy in Kansas responsible for this plan, Kris Kobach, has a track record of suggesting such laws. He’s credited with coming up with Mitt Romney’s famous “Self Deport” immigration plan amongst other things.
I’ve posted several times on voting rights because I feel it is our most important right, even more important than the 2nd Amendment one even though I’ve spent most of my life around guns. If we, as citizens, allow politicians to restrict the rights of fellow citizens to vote, we do more damage to our country than anything else possible. It’s up to the citizens to elect the stewards of this country, and if the vote is fixed, we are being screwed over regardless of who’s getting elected.
I don’t know of a single person who would purposefully allow their rights to be squashed or even threatened. Why is it then, that nobody ever speaks up for the people whose rights are really getting shafted? To paraphrase Martin Niemöller…
“First they came for the immigrant voters,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t an immigrant voter.
Then they came for the minority voters,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a minority voter.
Then they came for the young voters,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a young voter.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.”
As long as I have a heartbeat, I will speak out for those who do not speak, even if I don’t necessarily agree with their opinions or standings. If I don’t protect the rights of others, then I’m not protecting my own rights.
- Separate and Unequal Voting in Arizona and Kansas (billmoyers.com)
- Kansas Sec. of State Kris Kobach Has New Plan to Keep 17,500+ Legal Voters From Voting (bradblog.com)
- Two States Start ‘Separate but Equal’ Voting Systems (truthdig.com)