State officials were trying Monday to determine whether a new U.S. Supreme Court ruling could block a Georgia law requiring would-be voters to prove U.S. citizenship.
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Other high court decisions Monday:
The Supreme Court on Monday handed down decisions in five cases and agreed to hear two important appeals in the fall. Among the court’s actions:
- Ruled 5-3 that agreements between the makers of name-brand and generic drugs to delay the generics’ availability can be illegal, an outcome cheered by consumer groups. (For more on this, see Page A5.)
- Held 5-4 that prosecutors in some instances may use a suspect’s silence at an early stage of a criminal investigation against him — before the suspect has been arrested or informed of his constitutional rights.
- Agreed to decide in its next term a new dispute involving race, whether federal housing law requires proof of intentional discrimination.
- Decided 5-4 that judges may not increase mandatory minimum prison terms when sentencing defendants unless the facts justifying the increase have been found by a jury.
- Barred lawyers, in another 5-4 ruling, from obtaining state driver’s license records to recruit clients, saying the practice is prohibited by a federal law aimed at shielding motor vehicle information.
- Said it would review a state court ruling upholding a $1.24 million defamation judgment against a Wisconsin airline that reported one of its pilots was potentially dangerous, despite a post-9/11 law that encourages airlines to report potential safety threats to federal officials
— Associated Press
Georgia’s voter law
In 2009, Georgia’s Legislature passed Senate Bill 86. The law requires voter registration applicants to prove their U.S. citizenship. For evidence, they could submit their Georgia driver license or photo identification numbers or copies of their birth certificates or U.S. passports. It also says applicants may submit their alien registration numbers as proof.
To check that information and enforce the law, Georgia officials say they need access to a federal immigration database called the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements program. For more than a year and a half Georgia has repeatedly requested access to the program, public records show. A spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said Monday that she was looking into the matter.
The Arizona law struck down Monday required people registering to vote to show copies of or information concerning various documents, including birth certificates, passports, naturalization papers or driver’s licenses, that are available only to people who are in the state lawfully.
Sources: Georgia Senate Bill 86 of 2009, Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, The New York Times
Illegal immigration and its impact on several aspects of our society, including the potential to increase fraudulent voting, has been a contentious issue in Georgia, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has been covering how the issue affects the state. Find our previous coverage on illegal immigration and voting regulations at our premium website for subscribers, MyAJC.com.
Decisions still coming
Though the Supreme Court’s term will be over in by the end of next week, its Monday opinions did not include any of the three most-watched of the term: rulings on gay marriage, affirmative action and voting rights. Those could come Thursday — the next scheduled day for opinions — Monday, or, if the court chooses, on an additional day next week. Here’s a look at those cases:
- Gay marriage. The court is due to rule in two cases. One challenges a federal court ruling that a voter-approved California ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Depending on how the Supreme Court rules, the case could have nationwide impact, or it could be limited solely to California. The other case asks the court to uphold a lower court ruling that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. In that case, a New York woman who married another woman in Canada challenged the law after her spouse died and she was barred from claiming a marriage exemption on estate taxes.
- Affirmative action. A case filed by a would-be student against the University of Texas asks it to ban consideration of race in college admissions decision. The court’s ruling may settle this long-debated question and could have implications for all sorts of programs that use race as a criterion for eligibility.
- Voting rights. An Alabama case challenges Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires all or parts of states with a history of discriminatory practices — mostly in the South and West — to submit any change in their voting systems to the Justice Department for approval before enacting them. A ruling in favor of the plaintiffs could spell the end of such federal oversight in several states that have been moving to make voter eligibility more stringent.