In a rebuff to state officials, the head of the federal Elections Assistance Commission has rejected Arizona’s request to require proof of citizenship by those using a federal form to register to vote. In a 46-page order late Friday, Alice Miller, the commission’s acting director, said Congress was within its rights to conclude that those seeking to vote need not first provide documentary proof of eligibility. Miller said the affidavit of citizenship, coupled with criminal penalties for lying, are sufficient. Friday’s ruling is yet another significant setback for Arizona’s effort to enforce the 2004 voter-approved law. The state had argued all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court it has a constitutional right to demand citizenship proof, only to be rebuffed last year. But the justices, in their 7-2 ruling, said state officials were free to petition the EAC to add the requirement to the form. Friday’s order forecloses that option.
Attorney General Tom Horne said Saturday he does not believe the legal fight is over. He intends to take the issue back to federal court. “This bureaucrat is just a hoop we had to jump through,” he said of Miller’s order.
Proposition 200 requires both proof of citizenship to register and identification to cast a ballot at the polls. Courts sided with the state on the ID at polling places requirement. Foes of the Arizona law never appealed that decision. But they pursued the registration requirement, pointing out that the National Voting Rights Act, which directed the EAC to come up with a single national voter registration form, requires states to “accept and use’’ that form.
Horne argued that Arizona was accepting and using the federal form — but just simply adding its own proof-of-citizenship requirements on top. But Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the high court, said that argument makes no sense. That sent Horne and Secretary of State Ken Bennett to Miller.