Opponents of Arizona’s voter identification law asked the U.S. Supreme Court Monday to let a lower court decision take effect that would end the state’s requirement of proof of citizenship for voter registration. Justice Anthony Kennedy last week ordered a temporary stay of that ruling in response to state officials who said the decision, coming “on the eve of a new election cycle,” would have thwarted Arizona’s ability to “ensure fair federal elections.” Kennedy gave opponents of the law until Monday to file a response to the stay. Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne has until Wednesday to reply. Arizona has been requiring proof of citizenship since 2005, after the passage of Proposition 200. That law requires county recorders to reject any voter registrationform without proof of citizenship and it requires people to present identification when they show up to vote.
A divided 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in April upheld the voter identification part of the law, but rejected the proof of citizenship requirement. The appeals court said a federal registration form — which does not require proof of citizenship, but asks applicants to confirm that they are citizens — pre-empts the state law.
Jon Greenbaum, one of the attorneys who helped file Monday’s brief, agreed with the appellate decision. He said the National Voter Registration Act “has a provision which says states have to accept and use the federal form” for voter registration. The Constitution gives the federal government fairly broad powers to set election law and the states have to abide by it, said Greenbaum, the legal director for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. But Horne, in asking Kennedy for a stay last week, noted the federal registration act “also allows applicants to register by mail for federal elections using a state form.” He added that the Department of Justice, under the Voting Rights Act, had approved the state’s voting plan with its language specifically requiring proof of citizenship.