Today, in McCutcheon v. FEC, the Supreme Court opened the door to even more money infecting the political process by invalidating campaign finance laws that "limit on how much can be contributed to all federal candidates put together — $48,600 — as well as the total that can be given to political parties and PACs." The Court's decision includes the following statements:
"Government may regulate protected speech only if such regulation promotes a compelling interest and is the least restrictive means to further the articulated interest."I am a lawyer, (not a Constitutional lawyer, though I play one sometimes on Kos), and this is my initial gut reaction to this decision, with minimal research. But it strikes me that if the Court is going to construe money as speech under these broad principles, it should follow that voter ID laws and other voter suppression laws violate the same interests as those that were protected today in the McCutcheon decision and earlier in Citizens United.
The Court must “err on the side of protecting political speech rather than suppressing it.”
What can be more "political speech" than the act of voting itself? Why is spending money to encourage votes for a candidate any more an act of speech than the vote itself?
In probably his most serious mistake, in 2008, Justice Stevens upheld Indiana Voter ID laws in Crawford v. Marion County, based on the view that the law in question was not shown to impose enough of a burden on voting to violate the equal protection clause of the 14h Amendment. My quick review of that case did not find specific reference to a First Amendment argument, however.
Perhaps my argument is naive, but I wonder if the Roberts' Courts' very expansive definition of "free speech" in Citizens United and McCutecheon, and the Court's strong language that such speech must be protected, provides an opening for defeating the Vote ID and other voter suppression laws being passed around the country.
And, unlike Bush v. Gore, McCutcheon and Citizens United do not have the weasel language of the 2000 case that its holding is "limited to the present circumstances, for the problem of equal protection in election processes generally presents many complexities."
Its the Supreme Court Stupid?