Friday, August 26, 2011

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne's Crusade Against the 1965 Voting Rights Act and His Hope for Conservative Judicial Activism

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne (former Canadian)
It has been a long standing core view of conservatism that the courts have usurped the role of the various legislatures and the "will of the people".  Conservatives view many decisions by the various courts to be "judicial activism" (unless they agree with the decision), especially in areas of social policy.  Of course, we have seen conservatives be hypocritical in their core views, especially in their concept of limited government.  So, it doesn't come as much of a surprise to find out that Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne is using the courts to "legislate from the bench" in his efforts to secure the Republican Super Majority in Arizona.

At issue is the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and its protections for minority voting.  Arizona, in particular, must receive pre-clearance before any laws affecting voting may go into affect.  This tenant includes the restructuring of congressional districts and legislative districts, which in Arizona falls to the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.  Conservatives across the nation have made no qualms about their disdain, if not their hatred, for the VRA1965.  That disdain/hatred is even stronger in the states, such as Arizona, that are required to receive pre-clearance.  They see it as an encroachment of "state's rights".

Arizona has a long history of suppression of the voting rights and even the late Chief Justice, William Rehnquist was involved when a young lawyer.  Those suppression efforts have only intensified as the various minority populations have grown larger in recent years and "illegal immigration" has become a major focus of state and local politics.  They include the requirement for proving one's right to vote when they register and when they show up at the polls (this requirement is not in affect for mail in ballots and absentee ballots).

As has been noted by Steve Muratore over at The Arizona Eagletarian, it has come to light that there were concerted efforts by Republican members of the 2001 AIRC to suppress the voting power of minorities.  In fact, the Department of Justice even required changes to the final districts to ensure those rights before approval was given.  As the 2011 AIRC is proving to be very conscious of protecting minority voting rights while creating competitive districts.  It is this "independence" that AG Horne and other conservatives are scared of and why AG Horne has gone to court to get Arizona out from under the VRA1965.

The way the 2011 AIRC is proceeding, the Republican Super Majority in the state is being threatened.  In fact, even a Republican majority in both chambers of the legislature may be a thing of the past.  AG Horne and other conservatives in Arizona can't let that happen so they are hoping to have VRA1965 declared unconstitutional, specifically the pre-clearance requirements.  He hopes to achieve through the courts what conservatives have not been able to do through Congress: Eliminate VRA1965.  In short, they are hoping for some conservative judicial activism.

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