The Corner

Rand Paul Defends Constitutionality of Congress Giving the Vote to Felons

Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) defended the constitutionality of his plan to restore the voting rights of some felons, making an argument for the authority of Congress to regulate federal elections that is analogous to his theory for why he can run for president and reelection to the Senate simultaneously.

Paul invoked the Supreme Court’s decision invalidating an Arizona attempt to add a requirement to how people register to vote in federal elections. The Supreme Court in the Arizona case said that Arizona could not add additional regulations to federal elections but they could to state elections,” Paul told reporters Wednesday. “So the Supreme Court said state and federal essentially are different jurisdictions. So, federal elections, Congress does have jurisdiction. We wouldn’t be affecting state voting rights.”

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that Arizona could not “requir[e] a federal form applicant to submit information beyond that required by the form itself,” as Justice Antonin Scalia wrote.

“If the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Arizona case is concluded out, you’d actually have two ballots,” Paul said. ”It’d be a little weird, but, you’d have a federal ballot and a state ballot and there’d be different rules. I don’t think state legislatures are allowed to legislate on federal ballots, and the federal is not on the state, but I think we are allowed to make restrictions on what the rules are for voting for federal ballots.”

Paul’s argument in this case is analogous to the one his team is making against a Kentucky law that bans a candidate from running for two electoral offices at the same time.

“I hadn’t thought of that, but maybe there is a little bit of analogy,” the prospective presidential candidate allowed. “The Supreme Court said Washington State could not pass a term limit on federal legislators because that would make them different from the rest of the states. It would probably be the same with regard to someone running for president.”

As the conversation about reenfranchising felons concluded, Paul was asked what he thought of black Democrats turning out to reelect Senator Thad Cochran (R., Miss.,) in his runoff against tea-party candidate Chris McDaniel, and what he thought of the results of the race.

“I’m for more people voting, not less people voting,” Paul said. “I think the people of Mississippi spoke and I think Thad Cochran has done a lot of good things for Mississippi.”

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