Election integrity thrown a curve by high court
In a ruling this morning, the U. S. Supreme Court said individual states cannot require would-be voters to prove they are U.S. citizens before using a federal registration system to register to vote.
Arizona’s voter approved requirement that prospective voters document their U.S. citizenship in order to use a registration form produced under the federal “Motor Voter” registration law was effectively tossed on its head by a 7-2 vote of the justices.
On March 18, 2013, Arizona’s Attorney General Tom Horne brought the issue of our state’s Voting Rights Act — requiring proof of citizenship when registering to vote — to the U.S. Supreme Court, where he argued on its behalf. (Read his oral argument under link.) Our earlier post and additional background can be viewed here.
Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said Federal law “precludes Arizona from requiring a federal form applicant to submit information beyond that required by the form itself. Justices Clarence Thomas (Bush) and Samuel Alito (G.W. Bush) dissented.
Scalia (Reagan) disappointingly joined by Chief Justice John Roberts (G.W. Bush) voted in concert with liberals Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Clinton), Stephen Breyer (Clinton), Sonia Sotomayor (Obama), and Elena Kagan (Obama). Justice Anthony Kennedy (Reagan) filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment
After the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which doesn’t require such documentation, trumps Arizona’s Proposition 200 passed in 2004, Arizona appealed that decision to the Supreme Court.
The genesis of this issue goes back to 2004, when Arizona voters passed — by an overwhelming vote of 1,041,741 to 830,467 – the Arizona Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act.
Although the case focuses on Arizona – a border state that is the major portal for illegal alien trafficking, it has broader implications since four other states — Alabama, Georgia, Kansas and Tennessee — have enacted similar requirements. Twelve other states are contemplating such legislation.
In his dissent, Justice Thomas, a Bush appointee to the court, said “The Constitution authorizes states to determine the qualifications of voters in federal elections, which necessarily includes the related power to determine whether those qualifications are satisfied.”
This outrageous opinion neuters the ability of states to pass laws to inhibit non-citizens from getting on their voting rolls.
The U. S. Supreme Court’s 51-page decision in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc. can be read here.
Note: Names of the presidents who made the judicial appointment are in parentheses.
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