It’s almost spring, and that means the usual seasonal rites in the District of Columbia: the cherry blossom trees, the deluge of students—and another case before the U.S. Supreme Court involving a controversial law passed by the state of Arizona. The Grand Canyon State has been before the justices to defend its laws or programs five times over the last three years. In 2010, the high court: upheld an Arizona immigration law that penalized businesses if they employ illegal immigrants; struck down a state law providing for matching funds for candidates for state office that was meant to put them on an equal footing with wealthy, privately financed candidates; and held that a group of taxpayers lacked standing to challenge a state program of tax credits for donations for private school tuition. Last term, the justices ruled that several provisions of the state’s controversial immigration law, SB 1070, were pre-empted by federal law. The court also declined to enjoin a provision requiring the police to verify the immigration status of people they stop or arrest. This year’s offering is Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, a case about voter registration procedures that comes with an undercurrent of concern over illegal immigration. Arguments are scheduled for March 18.
At issue is the validity of Proposition 200, a 2004 Arizona ballot measure that requires applicants for voter registration in the state to provide evidence of U.S. citizenship. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at San Francisco held in an en banc decision last year that the measure was pre-empted by the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, also known as the “motor voter law.” Congress passed the law to make it easier to register to vote by treating driver’s license applications as voter registration forms and by authorizing a national mail-in registration form.
The case also implicates the elections clause in Article I of the U.S. Constitution, which allows states to set the “times, places and manner” of congressional elections but gives Congress the right to alter such state measures.