As election day approaches, the courts are tackling various challenges to voter laws. Joining the recent decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is the United States Supreme Court.
Yesterday, Monday October 15, 2012, the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal from the Ninth Circuit's April 12, 2012 decision to strike down Arizona's Proposition 200 requiring voters to provide proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal stated that under the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), the states must "accept and use" the federal form to register to vote, which requires prospective voters to swear or affirm by their signature that they are a citizen of the United States. The Arizona law sought to require prosepective voters to produce proof of citizenship in order to register. The Ninth Circuit upheld Proposition 200's provision requiring voters to provide identification at the poll, but stated that the NVRA supercedes the requirement to provide proof of citizenship with the use of the NVRA voter registration form. The Court will not hear oral argument in this case until after the election, in early 2013.
In another voters' rights case, the Supreme Court today declined to stay a decision of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal affirming an injunction by the lower court preventing the 2011 revisions to Ohio Rev. Code s. 3509.03 from taking effect to stop voters from casting early ballots during the three days before the November 2012 general election. The Sixth Circuit held that the revisions to the statute were unconstitutional and blocked the revisions from taking effect. The state of Ohio applied to the Supreme Court for a stay of the injunction "pending the filing and disposition of a petition for a writ of certiorari." The Supreme Court stated simply in its order, "The application for stay presented to Justice Kagan, and by her referred to the Court is denied." It remains to be seen if the Supreme Court will ultimately grant certiorari to the State of Ohio, but this will also be decided after the November election.
If anything, this flurry of appellate activity surrounding voters' rights is an indication of just how close this election is expected to be. Every vote counts, and it appears the Republican strategy is to disenfranchise the citizens who are most likely to be a vote for Obama. If this sounds harsh or overstated, take a look at the words of Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-PA), or better yet, listen to those of Penn. Republican House Speaker Mike Turzai.
UPDATE (Oct. 17, 2012): See also this reported incident..
Perhaps the Republican theme is a fear of foreigners. In the 2008 election, it appeared to be the Birthers' fear that a foreign born President would be elected. That red herring had to be dropped in light of the fact that Mitt Romney's father was born in Mexico. In 2012, perhaps the fear is that foreigners are reelecting him.