A lawsuit filed by Kansas and Arizona will be argued before a federal appeals court panel this week as the states seek to force federal election officials to impose proof-of-citizenship requirements on national voter registration forms. At the crux of the closely watched case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver is whether the federal government or states have ultimate authority to regulate voter registration. Each side contends that the U.S. Constitution supports its position. Monday’s arguments come after the U.S. Election Assistance Commission filed an appeal seeking to overturn a federal judge’s order that the commission modify a federal form to include special instructions requiring Kansas and Arizona residents to provide citizenship documentation when they register to vote.
The litigation has drawn widespread attention. More than a dozen voting rights groups have either joined the lawsuit or friend-of-the-court briefs. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and other top lawmakers urged the appeals court to throw out the lower court’s ruling, arguing that it would limit the authority of Congress to regulate federal elections and derail its ability to pass legislation protecting the right to vote.
Meanwhile, Georgia and Alabama, which have similar citizenship documentation laws, have filed a friend-of-court brief supporting Kansas and Arizona.
Kansas and Arizona argue that the proof-of-citizenship requirement protects the integrity of their elections. But opponents contend that the added documentation burdens result in an overall decrease in the number of eligible citizens who will register to vote, undermining the purpose of the 1993 National Voter Registration Act.