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Supreme Court Strikes Down Arizona Voter Law That Required Proof Of Citizenship

June 17, 2013 by  

Proposition 200, Arizona’s 2004 law making it mandatory for would-be voters to provide proof of their citizenship, died before the U.S. Supreme Court today.

The Court ruled that Arizona does not command the jurisdiction to set requirements for voting in Federal elections. That jurisdiction, according to a 7-2 majority opinion, belongs to the Feds, as set forth in the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.

That law does require that voters provide a valid form of identification at their polling place, but it doesn’t require a proof of citizenship. The Arizona law had ordered the State’s poll workers to turn away anyone who didn’t accompany a valid ID with a recognized document proving their citizenship.

Arizona v. Tribal Council of Arizona, the lawsuit that landed the case before the Supreme Court, was originally brought against the State by a number of American Indian tribes with help from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), all of whom argued that Proposition 200’s additional documentation requirements discriminated against citizens whose ancestry made it disproportionately difficult and expensive to obtain documentation, such as birth certificates, that demonstrate citizenship.

The Court’s majority opinion also affirmed the groups’ argument that Congress, and not the States, holds the authority for regulating Federal elections.

Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas cast the two dissenting votes. Alito argued in his minority opinion that the Constitution tasks the States – and not Congress – with the authority to establish qualifications for voters, as well as to regulate Federal voter registration.

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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