Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Supremes Highway to Hell...

There has been a lot of preliminary pontificating on this decision by the Supremes about the Arizona voting law. I am sure there will be more. I thought I’d throw my two cents in the bucket and take a whirl at it.

The best summary I’ve seen of what they actually decided was at ScotusBlog, which is:
On the one hand, the Supreme Court agreed that, for now, Arizona’s proof requirement must yield to the federal form’s approach — that is, it is enough to register, using that form, if the would-be voter swears that he satisfies the citizenship requirement. 
On the other hand, however, the Court also ruled that Arizona can seek permission from federal officials to impose its proof-of-citizenship requirement.  If it fails with that request, it can go to court and argue that it has a constitutional right to make proof of citizenship a binding requirement for all voters.
Essentially they are saying that a law that is from a common sense perspective constitutional and does the right thing cannot be applied until a State jumps through hoops and brings a different challenge to the Supremes. While I am sure this makes all the legal sense in the world, but from a practical viewpoint, the effect is the Supremes play a nice fiddle while the glow of the Republic grows on the horizon.

I believe what is lost on these scholars is that to overcome yet another barrier that has been erected by the court requires a political will to do so. Such a will of course depends on elected officials doing what they believe is the intention of their electorate. As long as these officials are empowered by a legally qualified electorate everything works. But open the door for extra-legal input and the system breaks down. One or two election cycles, and you have a very different system, where a shadow of extra-legal entities control the gates of power and patronage. The original system the founders intended is rendered moot, and the courts high and well meaning rulings are merely echoes of a somewhat familiar melody in an empty concert hall with an audience of the ghosts of our forefathers.

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