The conservative-driven movement to expand voter restrictions in the name of reducing polling booth fraud has often been described as a solution in search of a problem. Despite evidence suggesting voter fraud is rare, it’s a crusade that has proved so durable in GOP-dominated states like Arizona and Kansas that its leading proponents are undeterred — even by the U.S. Supreme Court. Get a high court decision that bars you from requiring residents to produce documentary proof of citizenship like a passport or birth certificate when registering to vote? Find a way around the decision, at least for your state, and at least for now. In Arizona and Kansas, that has meant plans to create expensive two-track voter registration systems: one for federal elections that would not require paper proof of citizenship; the other, for state and local elections that would. And the two states are making a parallel effort in U.S. District Court. They have filed a lawsuit challenging a directive in the 1993 National Voter Registration Act that requires states to “accept and use” the federal voter registration form.
That universal form, developed to encourage mail-in registration, accepts the applicant’s signature as a legal sworn oath of U.S. citizenship.
“It’s hard to say where this will end up,” election law expert Daniel Tokaji at Ohio State University says of the states’ court challenge.
“But, with certainty, the battles over ballots and access will continue, and will continue to be quite rancorous in months and years to come,” he says. “Arizona and Kansas seem really determined to implement their proof-of-citizenship requirements, notwithstanding the Supreme Court decision.”
In the wings is Georgia, another state with a proof-of-citizenship requirement for new voters, waiting to see how broadly it can be applied.