We are still waiting for a decision about the fate of the Voting Rights Act, but today the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion in another voting rights case. In today’s case, the Court ruled in favor of those who support voter access. Arizona must accept federal voter registration forms — even those federal forms that do not comply with Arizona’s restrictive proof-of-citizenship requirements. The opinion was written by Justice Scalia, who stated in February that the renewal of the Voting Rights Act was motivated by “racial entitlement.” Before assuming that Justice Scalia is a recent convert to voting rights protections, recognize that language in today’s opinion could eventually undermine voting rights. The details of the opinion could empower state and local partisans who manipulate voting rules. The opinion’s reasoning could also hamper federal efforts to protect military voters and restore former offender voting rights.
The National Voter Registration Act requires that all states “accept and use” a single, uniform voter registration form for federal elections. States can still use their own registration forms, but they must also accept and use the Federal Form. The purpose of the Federal Form is to increase participation by preventing states from erecting barriers to voter registration.
The Federal Form requires that prospective voters check a box and sign the form affirming they are U.S. citizens under penalty of perjury. Arizona, however, adopted a state law requiring “satisfactory proof” of U.S. citizenship to register, such as a birth certificate, U.S. passport, or state driver’s license that shows citizenship. As a result, Arizona initially rejected over 31,000 voter registration applications — including citizens who registered using the Federal Form.
Today’s U.S. Supreme Court opinion held that federal law overrides state law for regulating the manner of federal elections, and therefore Arizona may not reject Federal Forms that lack Arizona’s proof of citizenship requirement.
Full Article: Spencer Overton: Scalia’s ‘Voter Access’ Case.