A century-old Louisiana law discriminates against foreign-born, naturalized U.S. citizens by arbitrarily subjecting them to “heightened” voter registration requirements that don’t apply to native-born citizens, civil rights groups claim in a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday. Attorneys from the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Fair Elections Legal Network are seeking a court order blocking enforcement of the state law, which has been on the books since 1874. Their class-action suit claims the law is unconstitutional because it requires naturalized citizens to provide documents proving their citizenship when they register to vote, while other residents simply must swear that they are citizens on the voter registration application.
Many residents won’t be able to vote in November’s presidential and congressional elections if state and local officials continue to enforce the law, the suit alleges.
The suit says Louisiana’s law appears to be the last of its kind still enforced in the U.S. Similar laws in other states used to be more common but have been struck down as discriminatory, the suit adds.
Four other states — Alabama, Arizona, Georgia and Kansas — currently have proof-of-citizenship requirements for voter registration. Jon Sherman, an attorney for the Fair Elections Legal Network, said Louisiana’s law is different from the others because its requirements single out naturalized citizens.