Supreme Court: Federal election law trumps Arizona's proof-of-citizenship mandate

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WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday struck down an Arizona law requiring would-be voters to provide proof of citizenship.

The case is Arizona v. The Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc., and it's all about Proposition 200, which voters passed in 2004. The law amended to the Arizona's election code "to require county recorders to 'reject any application for registration that is not accompanied by satisfactory evidence of United States citizenship.'"

Basically, the Supreme Court said states cannot do that.

"Arizona's proof of citizenship requirement is preempted by the federal law requiring that states use the federal voter registration form," Amy Howe explained in a live blog of Supreme Court orders and opinions sponsored by Bloomberg Law.

The vote was a 7-2 split, with Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Samuel Alito both filing dissenting opinions.

According to live blog, Justice Anthony Kennedy "concurs in part and in judgment."

"The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) requires States to 'accept and use' a uniform federal form to register voters for federal elections," reads the 51-page decision delivered by Justice Antonin Scalia. "Arizona’s evidence-of-citizenship requirement, as applied to Federal Form applicants, is preempted by the NVRA’s mandate that States 'accept and use' the Federal Form."

The decision explains that "...[t]he Federal Form includes a statutorily required attestation, subscribed to under penalty of perjury, that an Arizona applicant meets the State’s voting requirements (including the citizenship requirement)...."

That attestation does not require physical documentation like Arizona wanted to require with Proposition 200.

"We conclude that the fairest reading of the [Arizona] statute is that a state-imposed requirement of evidence of citizenship not required by the Federal Form is 'inconsistent with'” the NVRA’s mandate that States 'accept and use' the Federal Form," Scalia wrote.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, which doesn't require such documented proof of citizenship, trumps Arizona's Proposition 200. Arizona officials say their law is needed to stop non-Americans from voting in elections, while opponents see it as an attack on minorities, immigrants and the elderly.

The Supreme Court sided with the government.

"Today’s decision is a victory for the federal government’s authority to regulate federal elections and protect the right to vote," Constitutional Accountability Center Chief Counsel Elizabeth Wydra said Monday.

The CAC had filed an amicus brief on the case with the Supreme Court.

"The Court affirmed Congress’ decision to use a single federal form to help streamline the voter registration process, and prevent states like Arizona from denying the right of citizens to register to vote in federal elections," CAC Civil Rights Director David Gans said. "At a time when states are engaged in voter suppression efforts, today’s opinion is an important reaffirmation that the text and history of the Elections Clause give the federal government broad power to preempt state law in order to protect the right to vote in federal elections."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.