A federal judge struck down Wisconsin’s voter ID law Tuesday, less than a week after a Circuit Court judge found Arkansas’ voter ID law unconstitutional. At least one more court decision should come down before November, but voting rights cases and legislation are brewing in plenty of other places worth keeping an eye on this year. Here’s a guide of what to watch — and where.
A federal judge ruled in March that Arizona’s 2004 law requiring new voters who register by mail to prove documentation of U.S. citizenship was valid. The Supreme Court had invalidated part of Arizona’s law last year, after which the state joined up with Kansas, which passed its own proof-of-citizenship voter requirements last year. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that the the 1993 National Voter Registration Act had mandated that states use the federal voter registration form, so Arizona’s more complicated form — which opponents say targeted the state’s large Latino community — is not valid. Voting expert Richard Pildes told NPR at the time, “What Justice Scalia has essentially said here for a substantial majority of the court is if you want modifications to these federal forms that have been required up till now, you have to go to this commission to get those modifications.” The decision in Arizona and Kansas’ case last month requires that Election Assistance Commission to modify the federal registration form to include Kansas and Arizona’s requirements, saying that the U.S. Constitution gives states the power to regulate elections. The case is heading to the 10th Circuit of Appeals later this year.
Last Friday, a Circuit Court struck down Arkansas’ voter ID law. The decision has been appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court, which Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project, says moves quickly and should be able to reach a decision before the 2014 midterms. The law does not allow residents to use college IDs to vote, and does not provide resources to help voters without photo identification obtain it. The Circuit Court judge, Timothy Fox, cited an 1865 ruling made by the Arkansas Supreme Court which held that the state’s constitution prohibited limits on the right to vote. Now that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act has been invalidated by the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder, Wendy Weiser, head of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, says we’re going to see lots more voting rights cases relying on state constitutions and state courts. And because of that, we’re likely to see a lot more cases citing 19th century court cases. “They are relying on old precedents,” Weiser says, “because courts haven’t had to ask these questions in a long time! The last time we saw this robust a legislative movement against voting rights was during Reconstruction. They don’t have a lot of recent cases to draw on.”