Arizona residents are the winners with Supreme Court voter registration ruling

Guest Opinion//June 21, 2013

Arizona residents are the winners with Supreme Court voter registration ruling

Guest Opinion//June 21, 2013

Sam Wercinski (file photo)

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.

This decision requires Arizona’s election officials to accept the federal voter registration form without requiring more documentation. The court, in short, rejects that part of Proposition 200 that has blocked more than 31,000 eligible Arizonans from registering to vote. That’s the equivalent of disenfranchising the entire voting populations of Kingman, Prescott and Sierra Vista. Imagine the outrage if that occurred.

Arizona residents are big winners with this victory.  The right to vote — for all Americans — was hard won, requiring a civil war and the adoption of constitutional amendments. Laws that weaken the right to vote are unwise and push against the constitutional grain. Politicians who push these laws will be remembered unfavorably by voters on Election Day.

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. The template for such bills comes from extremist organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate-backed “bill mill” accused of tax 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 SB1454 and HB2305, laws passed this legislative session that create unnecessary obstacles to voting and civic participation. While states like Colorado are making it easier to vote and increasing election integrity, Arizona politicians are working to discourage voting so they can 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.

Instead, Arizona officials should be working to engage voters and end the harmful effects of the Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates to unlimited, undisclosed money influencing our elections and misinforming voters. Money to buy elections can and does flow from foreign-controlled companies and individuals. In full knowledge of this risk, our legislators still passed HB2593, which violates the voter approved Clean Elections Act and helps wealthy special interests exert significant influence over elections and policymaking.

Laws like HB2305, SB1454, and HB2593 undermine our democracy and erode 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 big-money groups to sway 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 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 Doris Marie Provine is president of the Arizona Advocacy Network.