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.