High Court Strikes Down Ariz. Citizenship Proof Law

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The U.S. Supreme Court struck down Arizona's Proposition 200 Monday, a law requiring voters to have proof of citizenship when registering to vote.

Opponents said the federal "Motor Voter" law, enacted in 1993, already requires states to offer voter registration when a resident applies for a driver's license or certain benefits, and it requires states to allow would-be voters to fill out mail-in registration cards and swear they are citizens under penalty of perjury.

But supporters of the Arizona law claimed it doesn't require voters to show proof.

Under Proposition 200, officials require the following for a federal registration application form to be accepted:

  • An Arizona driver's license issued after 1996
  • A U.S. birth certificate
  • A passport or other similar document

Supporters say the measure reduces voter fraud, but opponents argue it puts an extra burden on voters.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that the the law went too far, making it clear that the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 trumps Arizona's Proposition 200 passed in 2004. The High Court upheld that decision in a 7-2 ruling.

"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," Nina Perales, vice president of litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said.

Parales also served as lead counsel for the voters who challenged Proposition 200. She noted that the Supreme Court ruling "affirmed that all U.S. citizens have the right to register to vote using the national postcard, regardless of the state in which they live."

Professor Tom Caso at Chapman University School of Law in California argued the decision "opened the door" to noncitizen voting.

"The court's decision ignores the clear dictates of the Constitution in favor of bureaucratic red tape," Caso said.

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