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Voter ID law still an issue for Congress

POSTED: June 23, 2013 8:00 a.m.
 

Boiled down to the basic essentials, the Supreme Court’s ruling Monday that Arizona cannot require proof of citizenship for those completing a voter registration form to participate in federal elections isn’t really surprising. In fact, unlike some Supreme Court rulings, this one seems pretty well grounded in logic, even if it’s ultimate impact is disappointing.

The federal government created the “motor voter” registration law, part of which is a form to be completed by those who want to register to vote. The law does not require proof of citizenship in order for the form to be processed and voters registered. Arizona sought to address that shortcoming by passing a state law requiring those who wanted to complete the form to prove they were U.S. citizens and eligible to vote.

The Supreme Court said things don’t work that way. The justices ruled by in a 7-2 decision that individual states can’t author laws that in affect change the registration rules as written by the federal government. If Congress doesn’t require proof of citizenship, state legislatures can’t take it upon themselves to do so on behalf of Congress.

The ruling has application in Georgia, which had hoped to enforce legislation similar to that in Arizona. Now it’s back to the drawing board for those who want to make proof of citizenship a requirement for voter registration.

Frankly, we don’t think it’s asking too much to require those who hope to participate in elections to prove they are qualified to do so, and to present appropriate identification when casting a ballot.

The real issue in this particular Supreme Court ruling isn’t whether the nation’s top jurists are liberal or conservative, or whether it’s logical to have piecemeal registration laws that vary from state to state, or even whether illegal immigration and voter registration are issues that should be comingled in political debate.

The real issue is that once again the federal government in Washington has failed to address a significant issue related to illegal immigrants head-on, and has left it to the states to try and do what should be done in the halls of power in Washington.

Federal elections should operate under the same rules from sea to shining sea. Those registering to vote in the nation’s elections should be required to prove they are legally eligible to do so.

The judicial branch may have delivered the unpopular news, but it did so because members of the legislative and executive branches of the federal government can’t bring themselves to pass laws related to voter registration that are reasonable and necessary.

Since Monday’s court ruling, Repub-lican lawmakers have promised that they will try to amend the motor voter law so that proof of citizenship will be required by those completing its registration form. Sounds simple enough; let’s see if it happens.

 

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