High court sends message in backing voting rights

June 25, 2013 

The right to vote is fundamental to American democracy, and therefore deserves every protection by the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 7-2 decision this week, conservative and liberal justices fought back an attack on that right by the state of Arizona.

In reaffirming the federal government’s dominate role in setting the rules for voting and immigration granted to it by the U.S. Constitution, the Supreme Court sent a strong message to other states tempted to tamper with voting rights.

The National Voter Registration Act of 1993, often called the motor voter act, created a uniform national registration structure for federal elections. It modernized and simplified a patchwork of state and local voting laws that were commonly enacted to deter eligible voters.

Arizona passed an initiative in 2004 that allowed the state to request documents providing proof of citizenship beyond the requirements of the national system. But evidence presented to the Supreme Court in the Arizona case argued that nearly 90 percent of the voter registrations rejected by the state were, in fact, legally eligible to vote.

The majority decision allows Arizona to appeal to the federal government for the right to request additional documentation. But Arizona would have to prove a serious problem exists, which it apparently does not.

This case reminds us that those who seek political advantage often attack the foundation of American government: the right to cast a vote.

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