Get to know the 17th Amendment

I’ll leave the analysis of the arguments in today’s Supreme Court decision allowing states to purge voter roles to someone else, but Clarence Thomas’ separate opinion leads to a more philosophical discussion: Why should states have different election laws?

Although, obviously, there are local elections, elections are national things and should it be tougher for an American to vote in one state rather than another? Why not just have one set of rules for 50 states and the territories?

If that notion makes sense to you, Justice Thomas is ready to destroy your argument.

The 17th Amendment (emphasis mine):

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.

When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.

This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.

“States thus retain the authority to decide the qualifications to vote in
federal elections, limited only by the requirement that they not ‘establish special requirements’ for congressional elections ‘that do not apply in elections for the state legislature,’” Thomas said in his concurring opinion.

He’s not wrong. It says it.

And Thomas says if states didn’t have the ability to enforce the requirements, the requirements themselves would mean little.