Yesterday was a big news day. We learned of the long-awaited health care decision and the historic contempt finding of Attorney General Eric Holder by the House of Representatives. But less attention was paid to the Supreme Court’s decision to vacate Justice Kennedy’s temporary stay of a 9th Circuit decision overturning Arizona’s law requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote. This means that for the November 2012 election voters in the Grand Canyon State will be able to register without first having to produce additional documentary proof of their citizenship beyond what is currently required on the federal voter registration card.
Voting Blogs: National Voter Registration Act vs. Voter ID and Other Voter Access Challenges | Concurring Opinions
In the ongoing battle to improve access to elections and expand the electorate, civil rights groups have often used the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (and its amendments) as the preeminent weapon. The most transformative legislation to come out of the civil rights movement, the VRA changed the complexion of this country’s elected bodies and increased access to political power for minorities through muscular remedies. However, it is the NVRA (National Voter Registration Act), the VRA’s lesser known, younger cousin of sorts, that has been stealing headlines this week Sandwiched between the VRA and the more recent Help American Vote Act (HAVA)d passed in 2002, the 1993 NVRA is sometimes overlooked as a significant linchpin of voter access. Indeed, the NVRA has played an important role in securing expanded registration opportunities for marginalized populations. And, in the face of stringent voter ID laws that suppress voter turnout and shrink the electorate, both offensive strategies and defensive tools are needed. The NVRA continues to prove that it can be effective on both fronts.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit handed down an opinion in Gonzalez v. Arizona, a long-running case involving a challenge to Arizona’s proof of citizenship and ID requirement – two provisions enacted by Arizona voters as part of Proposition 200 in 2004. I have been following this case for several years, yet I will readily admit that I had completely forgotten about it in the wake of all the other challenges and controversies across the nation recently. The last “big news” on this case was a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2006 vacating an injunction and sending the case back to the lower courts for further disposition.