The Supreme Court on Monday struck down an Arizona law that requires people to submit proof of citizenship when they register to vote. The vote was 7-2, with Justice Antonin Scalia writing for the court. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, two members of the court’s conservative wing, dissented. Only a handful of states have similar laws, which the states say are meant to reduce voter fraud, but civil rights groups worried that more states would have followed if the Supreme Court had upheld the Arizona law. Those groups say the Arizona law was an effort to discourage voting by legal immigrants. Groups opposed to the Arizona law said that the court had blocked an attempt at voter suppression. “Today’s decision sends a strong message that states cannot block their citizens from registering to vote by superimposing burdensome paperwork requirements on top of federal law,” said Nina Perales, vice president of litigation for the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
The Supreme Court will weigh in on the controversy over voter fraud and decide whether Arizona can require residents to show proof of their citizenship before they register to vote. The justices voted to hear Arizona’s appeal of an anti-fraud provision that was struck down by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The high court will not hear the case until early next year, with a ruling expected in the spring. Although many states seek to require more proof of a voter’s identity when they cast a ballot, Arizona wants to require more documentation from those who seek to register to vote. Arizona’s voters in 2004 adopted Proposition 200, which included new provisions designed to prevent illegal immigrants from voting. Those wanting to register to vote were told they must submit proof of their citizenship. They could show an Arizona’s driver’s license, a U.S. passport, a birth certificate or naturalization documents. But this provision was challenged in court and blocked from taking effect. The 9th Circuit said the requirement for extra documents clashed with the federal “motor voter” legislation of 1993, which was designed to make it easier for people to register to vote by filling out a federal form and sending it through the mail. The form requires applicants to certify they are citizens entitled to vote.
Editorials: Voting Rights Act denies equal right to discriminate, says Arizona Attorney General | Examiner.com
Next week, state attorney general Alan Wilson will attempt to contest the U.S. Dept. of Justice’s rejection of South Carolina’s “voter ID” law. The case is taking a new twist, however, thanks to the AG of another state. Today, Arizona’s Thomas Horne filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court, claiming that one particular part of the Voting Rights Act unfairly affects the nine states that are subject to its laws. Section Five of the Act notes that any change to voting laws in subject states must be approved by the federal government. Some other states not subject to VRA, though, have already changed their own laws pertaining to voting and didn’t require federal approval for those changes, Horne notes. Different formats of voter identification requirements are used in some of those other states, Horne notes, and the federal government didn’t interfere in those cases. Minority voters are still subject to discrimination in those states, too, he says. Because South Carolina and nine other states are the only ones subject to the Voting Rights Act, Horne concludes, it has unfairly lost its own right to discriminate. Section Five of the VRA “undermines the principal of equal sovereignty,” he says.