Supreme Court Mandates Testimony of Arizona Lawmakers in Voting Rights Case

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By Mark Sullivan

In a landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on November 27 that two senior Republican lawmakers in Arizona must testify regarding their support for state laws mandating proof of U.S. citizenship to vote in federal elections.

The ruling pertains to Arizona’s voting laws, which have been the subject of intense debate and legal scrutiny.

The lawmakers had previously argued that they should not have to testify about the legislative process, claiming a privilege necessary for the smooth functioning of government.

Democratic Opposition to Arizona Voting Laws

Democrats have challenged these laws, claiming they are part of a broader Republican strategy to suppress Democratic votes.

The U.S. Department of Justice, the Democratic National Committee (DNC), and various activist groups have sued, arguing that these laws contradict federal regulations and are discriminatory.

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes, a Democrat, has refused to defend specific provisions of these statutes, adding another layer of complexity to the legal battle.

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Supreme Court’s Refusal to Lift Order

The Supreme Court’s decision not to lift Judge Susan Bolton’s order compels Ben Toma and Warren Petersen, key Arizona legislative figures, to attend a deposition.

This directive highlights the court’s interest in understanding the rationale behind the state’s controversial voting laws.

The lawmakers are expected to provide insights into their support for two specific laws, H.B. 2243 and H.B. 2492, which focus on voter registration and proof of citizenship requirements.

The Ongoing Lawsuit

Judge Bolton, who President Bill Clinton appointed, has already struck down parts of H.B. 2492 and is proceeding to trial in a lawsuit challenging both laws.

The Supreme Court issued a brief, unsigned order without recorded dissents and did not explain denying the lawmakers’ request for exemption from testifying.

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Legislative Privilege in Question

The lawmakers argued in their emergency application that the order to testify violates the legislative privilege, a principle protected by Supreme Court precedent, and that such inquiries are incompatible with the government’s structure.

In its brief, the DNC described the Arizona laws as restrictive and discriminatory, asserting that the lawmakers’ intervention in the case after its initiation is grounds for compelling their testimony.

Lawsuit’s National Implications

This case has national implications, as it involves the contentious issue of voting rights and the balance between state legislation and federal oversight.

Efforts to contact the DOJ, the lawmakers’ attorney, Kevin O’Malley, and Seth Waxman, attorney for the Arizona Democratic Party and the DNC, have not yielded responses at publication.

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