Mitchell Reports | March 18, 2013
>> court argument. pete williams was saying there's no way to infer from the court argument, you were sitting at your counsel table. what was your impression?
>> i thought that the justices really focused in on the key issues before the court. does the federal law , which mandates a simple post card for voter registration override the arizona law, which requires something very, very different. the attachment of personal documents, like birth certificates and copies of passports. the court was right where i think the issue is today. and asked some very difficult questions of arizona about whether state law must yield.
>> nina, is there a possibility they could then say, just judging from what justice alito asked, you know, could some teenaged person looking like a middle schooler ride up on his bike and ask to register to vote and say yes, i'm a citizen. could they then challenge the federal law and say that's not adequate? how much leeway do they have based on this argument?
>> the leeway is provided under the constitution, which he congress chooses to step in and regulate the national voter registration act . states must yield to that with respect to the hypothetical involving the boy on the bicycle what that perhaps doesn't recognize is all states take their voter registrants and run them through various databases to make sure they are who they are and driver's licenses and other databases. the question is what can be required of the applicant. of the individual at the time of the registration? congress says a simple post card . this certainly leaves the states free to do whatever checking they want to do on their own.
>> maria theresa how is this targeting minority and largely latino voters? ha do you think arizona was trying to do?
>> i think fundamentally basically it's trying to claim that there's voter fraud where there isn't. this is a law in search of a problem that doesn't exist. this has been done by numerous nonpartisan groups. what we find is that in the time when we should be modernizing our election system. when we should be inclusive of individuals to participate in the democratic process , a law like arizona hinders participation. what i mean by that is if you're a young person , the number one reason people in the united states don't register is they think that the process is too complicated. so an organization like mine, we go into arizona and we basically go to where the voter is and we register them to vote. how many voters do you think are walking around with their birth certificates or naturalization papers.
>> 0 or if you're a married woman . how many women have changed their birth certificate to reflect their married name . it's almost as if the folks are talking through both sides of their mouth. all of these people proposing this legislation happen to be republican legislators. at a time when the rnc says it wants to spend $10 billion for minority outreach. but at the same time prevent voter registration . even in a country like south africa where they've had a history like apartheid. they have higher voter registration numbers than the united states . so there's clearly a problem and the state law is hindering our participation in the democratic process .
>> do you see the state law as another example of the kind of voter suppression that was attempted in the states around the country?
>> well, the impact of the arizona law is definitely to stop the future. which is that it's, it's preventing voter registration from tens of thousands of eligible u.s. citizens . the court record shows that over 31,000 people were rejected for voter registration in the first two and a half years of the law. and they reflected broadly the demographics of arizona , most were not latino , most were born in the united states . it's had a broad disenfranchising effect. in that way it's similar to other laws that prevent people from participating.
>> maria theresa , do you see other states trying to imitate arizona , or will this test, if arizona loses the test put an end to this?
>> you have states such as georgia and texas encouraging the passage of this law and one of the folks, they helped file the law with the supreme court in support of it. so what i actually, what my fear is if you look at the states that are supporting the arizona law, not surprisingly you have a boom in young voters, a boom in african-american voters and a boom in latino voters, instead of trying to engage this demographic, they're scratching their heads, like we're trying to hold back the future and let's make sure these folks don't participate in our democracy and that's not good for anyone.
>> maria theresa and nina, thank you very much. big day for you with the supreme court argument. we hope you'll come when the decision comes down.