An Arizona law requiring proof of U.S. citizenship before allowing someone to register to vote will be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Passed in 2004 as Proposition 200, critics say the law imposed a substantial burden on the ability of citizens to register and cast ballots. A 2006 lawsuit argued the requirement clashes with a 1993 federal law – the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) – that set the terms for voter registration nationwide and did not include a requirement that prospective voters show ID proving citizenship before being permitted to register to vote in a federal election.
States are free to develop their own voter registration requirements for state and local elections. But the question in the case is whether those same requirements can be imposed on those using the federal voter registration form under NVRA.
Rather than requiring production of documents proving citizenship, the NVRA asks those seeking to register to vote to attest in writing that they are, in fact, eligible to vote and to sign the statement under a penalty of perjury. States are allowed to require those register by mail to vote in person the first time so indentiy can be confirmed. At issue in the lawsuit was whether the state had the authority to impose an additional safeguard on the voter registration system, or whether that is something completely covered under the NVRA.
A federal judge found that more than 30,000 applications were denied in Arizona because of lack of acceptable citizenship documents. Less than 10,000 of the applicants were later able to register to vote, according to a brief filed in the case.
State lawyers are asking the Supreme Court to reverse an 8-2 decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that blocked enforcement of the Arizona proof-of-citizenship requirement against those using the federal NVRA form to register to vote.
The high court refused to enter the fray in June, declining a request to issue a temporary stay of the Ninth Circuit ruling but now has agreed to take up the case to weigh the central issue in the case.