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June 17, 2013

Supremet Court: Ariz. citizenship proof law illegal

WASHINGTON —

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that states cannot on their own require would-be voters to prove they are U.S. citizens before using a federal registration system designed to make signing up easier.

The justices voted 7-2 to throw out 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” voter registration law.

Federal law “precludes Arizona from requiring a federal form applicant to submit information beyond that required by the form itself,” Justice Antonia Scalia wrote for the court’s majority.

The court was considering the legality of Arizona’s requirement that prospective voters document their U.S. citizenship in order to use a registration form produced under the federal “motor voter” registration law. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said 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.

“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,” said Nina Perales, vice president of litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and lead counsel for the voters who challenged Proposition 200.

“The Supreme Court has 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,” she said.

The case focuses on Arizona, which has tangled frequently with the federal government over immigration issues involving the Mexican border. But it has broader implications because four other states — Alabama, Georgia, Kansas and Tennessee — have similar requirements, and 12 other states are contemplating such legislation.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented from the court’s ruling.

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