Monday, June 17, 2013

Supreme Court Strikes Down Arizona Law Requiring Documented Proof of Citizenship Before Registering to Vote

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that an Arizona law requiring documented evidence of citizenship before registering to vote is preempted by federal law. The Justices held that Arizona cannot add to the federal National Voter Registration Act by demanding documented proof of citizenship. The court’s opinion is here.

The National Voter Registration Act only requires that an individual attest to being a United States citizen on a mail-in post card. The Arizona law went one step beyond that and required actual documented proof of citizenship. The result was significantly lower voter registration. According to USA Today, in the years following the implementation of the Arizona law, voter registration dropped by 44% in Maricopa County.

Writing for the majority, Justice Scalia explained that allowing states to impose their own requirements is inconsistent with the National Voter Registration Act, which requires states to accept and use the federal forms. The Justices felt that the Arizona law went too far beyond the National Voter Registration Act, which was implemented in order to simplify voter registration.

This is one of two voting rights cases before the Supreme Court this term. The other case, Shelby County v. Holder, challenges the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  The Voting Rights Act requires 15 states, including Arizona, to get pre-approval from the federal government before implementing voting changes. The Act was originally passed in order to deter voter discrimination but has recently been challenged as prejudicial and no longer necessary.

The Justices are expected to deliver an opinion in that case within the next couple of weeks. Check back to the blog for updates.
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