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Blue The Nation | August 20, 2014

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Supreme Court Strikes Down Voter ID Law; Ted Cruz Tries to Reinstate It

Supreme Court Strikes Down Voter ID Law; Ted Cruz Tries to Reinstate It
Jonathan Nathan

One of the Republican Party’s most common strategies is voter suppression. And one of the most common ways they’ve endeavored to suppress the vote is via the passage of laws that make it difficult for certain populations–all of which happen to vote heavily Democratic–to participate in the electoral process. Arizona, as in so many conservative Republican trends, has been leading the pack in the effort to disenfranchise the American liberal with a law requiring that would-be voters present “concrete proof of citizenship” before being allowed to vote. And if you don’t have such proof and cast a provisional ballot, the post-election follow-up process requires not just proof of citizenship, but photo ID.

These kinds of measures are problematic in a country in which 11% of citizens don’t have a photo ID. So it’s a good thing the Supreme Court struck the law down. In a 7-2 ruling, the high court determined that the federal National Voting Rights Act preempts the state law, which means that voters using the federal registration form will not have to satisfy the more onerous proof-of-citizenship requirements. It’s not as big of a victory as some progressives might think it is, but it’s a victory nonetheless.

So naturally, Ted Cruz, whose co-workers really don’t like having to work in the same office building as him, tried to reinstate the law. Cruz plans file an amendment to the immigration reform bill overturning the decision. Because of carefully crafted language in Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion, Cruz and his fellow Republicans can do this and it’ll stand up to legal challenges. The measure will, if passed, permit states to require proof of citizenship in order to register and vote.

This amendment is just one of many that Republicans in the House and Senate have been attaching to the various versions of the immigration reform bill in an effort to create an impossible situation. Their hope is that either the amendments pass with the bill and Republicans essentially destroy meaningful immigration reform and get to pass all sorts of little side-bills, or the bill fails because Democrats won’t vote for a package that includes these amendments, and the Republicans essentially destroy meaningful immigration reform. It’s a win-win for them. These are poison-pill amendments, designed to make the final bill something so horrible that either the Democrats have to pass something they despise, or the Democrats have to kill something they want.

The best part of this plan, for Republicans, is that even if all they succeed in doing is killing the immigration bill, there’s nothing stopping them from resurrecting all the dead amendments either as standalone bills or as amendments to something else. It’s unlikely that the Cruz voter-suppression measure will pass as an amendment to the immigration bill; it’s very likely, however, that it will come up for debate again multiple times before the end of this calendar year, let alone the end of this Congress.