The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Arizona’s voter ID ballot initiative violates federal election law.
By a 7-2 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down supplemental state proof-of-citizenship requirements, for persons seeking to register to vote in federal elections, beyond the requirements imposed by Congress.
The Federal Form for voter registration, approved by the federal Election Assistance Commission, pursuant to the federal National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) requires that voter registrants swear, under penalty of perjury, that they are U.S. citizens. A 2004 referendum, Arizona Proposition 200, sought to impose additional documentary citizenship proof requirements. The Supreme Court ruled that the Elections Clause of the U.S. Constitution permitted Congress to set rules for the “time, place and manner” of federal elections that “pre-empt” contrary state laws.
For many years, AARP Foundation Litigation attorneys have represented Native-American and Latino voters in conjunction with a broad coalition of groups concerned with voting rights in Arizona, including the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
Before 2004, Arizona voters registering to vote (and also casting their ballots) had to meet limited requirements. In 2004, Arizona voters approved the Arizona Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act (“Proposition 200” or “Prop 200”), requiring persons registering to vote to submit documentary proof of citizenship, such as a driver’s license, birth certificate, U.S. passport (or other immigration documents showing citizenship), or Bureau of Indian Affairs card.
Prop 200 also required enhanced documentary proof of a voter’s identity if (and whenever) an individual moves from one Arizona county to another. And on voting day, voters now must bring photo ID to the polls. People who vote early or absentee are not required to provide such identification.
Prop 200 restrictions on voter registration (and in-person voting) plainly were designed to curb the alleged problem of illegal voting by non-citizens. Yet over the last decade, proponents of Prop 200 have been able to point to no more than 38 instances in which non-citizens sought to vote; and many of these cases involved apparently innocent misunderstandings by immigrants eager to participate in U.S. elections. By contrast, many thousands of Arizona citizens are lawfully registered and eligible to vote, or fully qualified to register, but do not have the documents required by Prop 200.