Today the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case with huge ramifications for Arizona—and for federalism.
Shelby County, Alabama is challenging the constitutionality of section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which was designed to bring into line states and local governments that were likely to resist the Voting Rights Act.
The provision requires those jurisdictions to seek advance approval from the Justice Department for any action that even tangentially affects voting—from municipal annexations to changing the location of polling places and the hours of Motor Vehicle Division offices. The requirements are costly, burdensome, and deeply intrusive.
Initially, section 5 applied mainly to deep-South jurisdictions. But in 1975, the law was expanded to include “language minorities,” and Arizona was brought into the section 5 penalty box.
Section 5 was intended to be a temporary emergency measure. But despite the emergency having long receded (and having never existed in Arizona), Congress in 2006 extended it for another 25 years.
Most members of Arizona’s congressional delegation, including Republicans, voted for the extension. No Arizona official had the political courage to take it on until Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne in 2011 filed a constitutional challenge, which is on ice until the Supreme Court decision.
If section 5 is struck down, core Voting Rights Act protections, such as access to the ballot, will remain intact. But the presumption that certain specified states are guilty of voting rights abuses until proven innocent will be reversed. It is long past time for Arizona to be released from the purgatory imposed upon it by the federal government.
The Wall Street Journal: Why Is Arizona in the Jim Crow Penalty Box?
Goldwater Institute: Time to Stand Up To the Feds on Voting Rights