You’ve probably heard that the Supreme Court may be on the verge of striking down an integral part of the Voting Rights Act. That case, however, is not the only chance that the highest court will have this term to affect voting rights around the country. On Monday, the justices will hear oral arguments in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc., a case that concerns Arizona’s power to impose its own conditions on top of the federal rules for voter registration. The case began as a challenge to Proposition 200, an initiative passed by Arizona voters in 2004 that requires voters to prove that they are U.S. citizens by showing a birth certificate, passport, driver’s license, naturalization certificate, or tribal document before registering and also to show identification when casting their ballots. Under the law, state election officials must reject any voter registration forms not accompanied by sufficient evidence of citizenship—even the federal form produced by Congress under the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which doesn’t generally require the documents Arizona does.
The NVRA, passed in 1993 and sometimes known as the “Motor Voter Act,” was designed to expand access to the polls and increase voter participation by making it easier for Americans to register to vote. The idea was to simplify complicated and varying local rules, making them unified and straightforward. Congress gave a federal agency, the Electoral Assistance Commission, the power to develop the new Motor Voter registration form. The form the commission produced requires voters to swear under penalty of perjury that they are United States citizens, but it does not ask for documentation to prove it. The NVRA says that states can still use their own forms, but they have to meet the federal standards, and they have to also accept the federal form—which Arizona does not without the extra documents.
The groups challenging Arizona’s law, in addition to the Inter Tribal Council, include the League of Women Voters, the League of United Latin American Citizens Arizona, and the Hopi tribe. The groups say they represent Native American and Latin American citizens who are likely to be disenfranchised by the state’s proof of citizenship requirements. A recent study showed that voter ID laws have the strongest impact on young voters, especially young minorities. The groups bringing suit argue that the federal government has the power to set the rules for elections for federal office, including voter registration, and states can’t impose additional conditions for voting when Congress has already established the rules.