The Supreme Court took up its second voting rights case in less than a month on Monday, with the justices appearing narrowly divided on whether the National Voter Registration Act, or “Motor Voter” bill, trumps state registration requirements. At issue in the case is Arizona’s Proposition 200, which requires proof of citizenship, and whether or not the federal registration form under the NVRA preempts Arizona’s more stringent requirements. The liberal justices criticized Arizona’s eligibility requirements as overly restrictive and in direct conflict with the federal voter registration form, which requires people to attest to their citizenship via signature but does not require documentation of citizenship. Some of the Court’s conservative judges, however, parsed the wording of the NVRA and suggested the states do, in fact, have the ability to add requirements such as proof of citizenship.
Congress passed the NVRA in 1993 to encourage more people to register to vote. The law allows for one uniform voter registration form across the country and also requires states to allow mail-in registrations.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Arizona last spring, with the three-judge panel saying the NVRA superseded state-level requirements.
Monday’s arguments in the NVRA case, known as Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, came less than a month after the Court heard Shelby County v. Holder, which dealt with the constitutionality of a section of the Voting Rights Act.
In the Shelby County case, conservative justices appeared highly skeptical of the continued need for federal pre-clearance of voting laws in the 16 states where the VRA’s Section 5 applies.
Both Monday’s voter registration case and the Shelby County case carry major implications for voting legislation across the country. Its rulings will offer great insight into how the High Court views election law and voting rights.