Voting rights watch: KS and AZ have scary plans for “two-tier” voting

Republican Secretaries of State in Kansas and Arizona are devising a whole new way to make voting harder. Thwarted by the U.S. Supreme Court in their attempt to require proof of citizenship for voter registration, they are working on a plan to create an unprecedented system of two classes of voters: those who qualify—under new rules—to vote in federal elections only, and those who qualify to vote in state elections as well as federal elections.

Some background, from Talking Points Memo:

In both states, the preparations underway are reactions to the Supreme Court’s June ruling in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council, the legal battle over Arizona’s 2004 voter identification law, known as Proposition 200. While the headlines in June painted the ruling as a blow to Proposition 200, officials in both Arizona and Kansas have chosen to focus on the leeway the Supreme Court left them. Kansas State Election Director Brad Bryant laid out the argument in an email he sent to county election officers at the end of July.

“As the Supreme Court made clear, its decision applies only to ‘federal registration forms’ and covers only federal elections,” Bryant wrote, according to a copy of the email provided to TPM. “States remain free to require proof of citizenship from voters who seek to also vote in state elections.”

Here’s how it works: When potential voters register using the standard federal voter registration form, they are asked only to indicate, by their signature, that they are citizens of the U.S. and therefore qualified to vote. But in addition to the standardized voter registration provided to all states by the federal government, there’s also a form, in almost all states, that is customized to that state. Kansas’ Secretary of State is now saying there’s a loophole in the Supreme Court decision that leaves a window of opportunity to require proof of citizenship on the state registration form.

So, Kansas is going to add that stipulation to its voter registration form. By this logic, that means that there will be two classes of voters: Tier 1 will be who have registered via the federal form—with no documentary proof of citizenship. In Kansas, those voters will be allowed to vote only on federal offices, not on state and local elections. Tier 2 voters, who have registered via the state form—providing the required proof of citizenship—will be allowed to vote in both state and federal elections.

Of course, it’s an “end-around” play, designed to circumvent the Supreme Court’s ruling and to suppress the votes of people who they’d like to keep from voting—effectively people who don’t have the necessary documents [or the time/money to go and get them], which generally means minorities, poor people and older people—who tend to vote for Democrats.

This ploy is also another sorry, scary and democracy-killing example of states asserting their rights versus the federal government—not for reasons of fairness or opportunity, but as a cynical and nihilistic way of manipulating elections. Sadly, it’s part of a trend: We’ve also seen state legislatures attempting to nullify federal gun laws, and make implementation of the Affordable Care Act [Obamacare] illegal in their states.

Creating separate and unequal “tiers” of voting is a sickening idea that has the potential to become a terrible trend. At long last, have they no decency?