Efforts by some states that could make it tougher to register to vote or vote are heading toward the Supreme Court, providing a fresh test of the justices’ political mettle. The court agreed Monday to hear Arizona’s appeal of a lower-court ruling that blocked the state from requiring proof of citizenship when registering by mail. The case, which could affect other states including Alabama, Georgia, Kansas and Tennessee, likely will be heard in the winter and decided in the spring. More urgent is the court’s imminent decision whether to hear Ohio’s appeal of lower-court rulings that blocked the state from closing early voting centers three days before the election, while allowing military and overseas voters continued access. President Obama’s campaign is opposing the state’s case.
Whether the court acts before the election, as in Ohio’s case, or after, as in Arizona’s, the cases place the court squarely back in the political maelstrom, recalling its verdict in 2000’s Bush v. Gore case that handed the presidency to George W. Bush.
“It’s been a long time since there has been such a convergence of cases involving voting,” says Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation. Says Wendy Weiser of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law: “There’s a risk to the court’s reputation in getting involved in these cases.”