MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A federal appeals court has ruled that would-be voters in Alabama will not be required to show proof of U.S. citizenship when using a federal voter registration form. Upon hearing news of the ruling, one state lawmaker had some harsh words for the judges responsible for the decision.
“The two judges that overruled the states should be arrested for treason!” State Rep. Jim Patterson exclaimed in a Facebook post. “They have no clue about the Constitution! This is not about voter rights, it’s about people voting that are not qualified!”
The legal battle over whether would-be voters should be required to show proof of citizenship began when Brian D. Newby, executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, granted a request to update the federal voter registration form to include the state’s new photo voter ID requirement.
U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon denied the first legal challenge to the change, but on Friday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overruled him, granting a preliminary injunction against the proof-of-citizenship requirement because it could cause “irreparable harm” to some would-be voters trying to register prior to the upcoming presidential election.
The Washington Post called the decision a “victory for civil rights groups, Democratic lawyers and the Obama administration” in “their ongoing battle with conservative lawyers and Republican lawmakers over who will be eligible to vote in this year’s presidential contest.”
Rep. Patterson accused opponents of the proof-of-citizenship and voter ID requirements of trying to “steal elections.”
“It’s time for a convention of the states to bring back our Constitution,” he concluded.
In spite of the proof-of-citizenship ruling, Alabama’s photo voter ID law remains in effect, although Democrats across the country continue decrying it as “racist” and “hateful”.
In an October 2015 visit to Hoover, Hillary Clinton slammed Alabama Republicans for requiring proof of citizenship to vote and for shuttering driver’s license offices in the wake of state budget cuts. The Democratic presidential nominee insisted that both issues were examples of Republicans trying to return Alabama to its Jim Crow past.
“We have to defend the most fundamental right in our democracy, the right to vote,” she said. “No one in this state, no one, should ever forget the history that enabled generations of people left out and left behind to finally be able to vote.”
Before that, Vice President Joe Biden chided supporters of voter ID laws in light of liberal defeat in the Supreme Court case of Shelby County v. Holder which stemmed from a legal challenge in Alabama. “These guys never go away,” Biden said. “Hatred never, never goes away. The zealotry of those who wish to limit the franchise cannot be smothered by reason.”
Since 2008, Republican-controlled legislatures in 17 states have adopted new voting-related laws. Among those are Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin, which passed laws requiring a photo ID to vote. (h/t The Daily Beast)
Conservatives have long argued it is reasonable to require photo voter ID in order to protect the sanctity of elections, particularly because photo ID is also required for any number of other activities, from buying alcohol and opening a bank account, to getting on an airplane and renting a car.
But several lower courts have in recent months agreed with Democrats’ assertion that such laws are discriminatory.
There are currently at least 10 different types of ID that are acceptable to use at the polls (including a driver’s license) and the Secretary of State’s office also offers free Alabama photo voter ID cards and free non-driver IDs for purposes of voting.