Voters won a huge victory yesterday when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states cannot impose their own conditions for voting.
For Arizona not to be able to require additional proof of citizenship, beyond the form that federal law calls for, is a setback for states that have enacted similar regulations to combat a virtually nonexistent problem: fraudulent votes from noncitizens.
Proposition 200 which the high court struck down emerged amidst an anti-immigrant political time in Arizona, in response to the alleged threat of the presence of undocumented immigrants posing as citizens.
There is no proof that this ever happened. Moreover, election fraud studies have focused on other problem areas, like voting by mail, but have considered impersonating a citizen irrelevant.
Laws like Arizona’s ballot initiative proliferated in states like Alabama, Kansas and Georgiawhere Republican legislatures used the supposed danger the undocumented posed to democracy to impose their restrictions.
In reality, this type of measure is what truly jeopardizes democracy. There is proof that establishing more voting requirements hinders the participation of African-Americans, senior citizens and the poor. In this case, immigrants are being used as an excuse to discourage an electorate that is perceived as mostly Democratic.
The court’s ruling pointed out that there is a path for states to petition for changes. However, the political intention of using undocumented immigrants as scapegoats to decrease voter participation is unlikely to be accepted. This decision is a victory for democracy and a defeat for the anti-immigrant movement.