On Tuesday, the Justice Department sued the state of Arizona for imposing new requirements for people to vote in federal elections. The results of the case will likely reverberate across the country, as conservatives continue to look for ways to place their thumbs on the scales in federal races.
Since President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election, including in Arizona, Republicans in the Grand Canyon State have tried their hardest to substantiate his baseless allegations of voter fraud. We’re still learning the extent to which Arizona legislators may have aided the Trump campaign’s efforts, but GOP-backed voting laws are still using his false allegations to drastically restrict voting rights.
In March, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed House Bill 2492, a GOP-backed law that requires voters to show proof of citizenship to cast ballots in presidential races or through the mail and adds a requirement that voters show proof of address to register to vote at all. Many people in Arizona, including the Legislature’s own lawyer, argued the bill was unconstitutional and that it would disenfranchise voters.
Here’s an excerpt from a report via The Arizona Republic and NBC affiliate KPNX of Phoenix after the bill passed:
Before Ducey signed HB 2492, he received a deluge of letters from people asking him to veto it, including county officials. They warned it would especially burden Native American voters and people of color, hurt voter registration drives and lead to the cancellation of thousands of valid voter registrations. Provisions in the bill are likely preempted by federal law, a lawyer for the Legislature informed lawmakers in February at House Rules Committee hearing.
The federal government's voter registration forms already warn noncitizens not to vote, under penalty of perjury. And the Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that Arizona can’t tack additional requirements on to the federal form.
But the current Supreme Court has opened up new possibilities for conservatives. And if you’re not worried about what that could mean, you should be.
Last week, the court agreed to take up a case next term involving what’s called the independent state legislature doctrine. North Carolina’s GOP-led Legislature wants sole authority over how it conducts federal elections. As my colleague Steve Benen wrote over at the Maddowblog, this would give legislatures the ability to bypass state laws, state constitutions, state courts and other checks on their power. And that could lead to rigged voter districts, disenfranchisement and other disasters.
Simply put, if the Supreme Court rules in the Legislature’s favor in the North Carolina case, it could destroy the concept of federal elections. The citizenship law in Arizona is on the same trajectory.