Yesterday was a big news day. We learned of the long-awaited health care decision and the historic contempt finding of Attorney General Eric Holder by the House of Representatives. But less attention was paid to the Supreme Court’s decision to vacate Justice Kennedy’s temporary stay of a 9th Circuit decision overturning Arizona’s law requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote. This means that for the November 2012 election voters in the Grand Canyon State will be able to register without first having to produce additional documentary proof of their citizenship beyond what is currently required on the federal voter registration card.
In the case of Gonzalez v. Arizona, the 9th Circuit found that Arizona’s law requiring proof of citizenship violated the National Voter Registration Act. The dispute over the citizenship requirement in Arizona has been in the federal courts since it was imposed by the state’s voters in 2004 under “Proposition 200.” This is the second trip to the Supreme Court for this law. The first was in 2006 when the Court, without deciding the legality of the proof of citizenship mandate, unanimously overturned a prior 9th Circuit order against enforcement of that provision (Purcell v. Gonzalez, et al.). Following that decision, the Arizona law was challenged again and this time the 9th Circuit invalidated (first as a panel and then en banc) the requirement because it conflicted with federal voter registration mandates.