Yesterday, the Supreme Court agreed to review a lower court decision striking down an Arizona law making it more difficult to register to vote, an announcement that was someone surprising because the justices recently denied an attempt to stay the decision blocking the Arizona law. This decision, however, is only the first of at least three major cases the justices are likely to hear this term which could turn the 2014 election into even more of a free-for-all for big money donors and vote suppressing lawmakers than the 2012 election:
- Voter Registration Roadblocks: The Arizona lawsuit concerns a ballot initiative requiring voter registrars to “reject any application for registration that is not accompanied by satisfactory evidence of United States citizenship.” A federal appeals court struck down the law on the grounds that it conflicts with federal voter registration law. The case does present a genuinely interesting question of whether state elections law is more likely to be preempted by federal law than other state laws, so it is possible the the Supreme Court will simply resolve that question without upholding the Arizona ballot initiative. One thing is clear about this Arizona law, however, and that is that it raises unnecessary barriers to voter registration without addressing any real problem. Both Florida and Colorado initiated voter purges this year seeking out non-citizen voters, and they turned up virtually no non-citizens who vote.
- More Election Buying: Currently, federal law caps an individual’s contributions to candidates, political party committees and similar organizations at $117,000 every two years. A lawsuit brought by the Republican Party seeks to eliminate this cap, and it is almost certain to be heard by the Supreme Court. If the justices strike down this cap, it will move the country a significant step closer to GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s preferred regime, where Wall Street billionaires can write unlimited checks directly to his campaign.
- Gutting The Voting Rights Act: The Voting Rights Act, which forbids laws that disproportionately prevent racial minorities from voting, currently requires certain states to “pre-clear” any new voter laws with a federal court or the Department of Justice before those laws may take effect. For this reason, it has prevented some of the worst recent attempts to limit the franchise from taking effect, including some states’ voter ID laws. The Court is widely expected to hear a challenge to this part of the Voting Rights Act, however, and appears more likely than not to strike it down.