“Papers Please” Arizona Law is found to be Unconstitutional

Posted on 06/20/13

Last Monday, the Supreme Court ruled an Arizona law that requires voting applicants to submit proof of citizenship unconstitutional. Supreme Court Justices voted 7-2 to strike down the voter requirement.

Under Proposition 200, enacted in 2004, Arizona voters must show documentation of U.S. citizenship to use the voter registration form produced under a federal law designed to make the process easier and encourage voting. Proposition 200 requires an Arizona drivers license issued after 1996, a U.S. birth certificate, a passport or another similar document to be showed before being approved to use the federal voter registration form. Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, and Tennessee also have similar voter requirements.

Proposition 200 is criticized for being a burden to citizens who may not have proof of their citizenship, barring them from voting. In particular, it is a burden to naturalized citizens, who cannot legally make copies of their documents, therefore making it difficult for them to mail-in their voter registration forms.

Justice Scalia wrote that federal law prohibits “Arizona from requiring a federal form applicant to submit information beyond that required by the form itself”, referring to The National Voter Registration Act of 1993, or the “Motor Voter” Act. The Motor Voter law doesn’t require such documentation, and trumps Arizona’s Proposition 200. The federal law instead requires states to offer voter registration when applying for a driver’s license and other specific benefits. It also requires states to allow mail-in registration cards and swear citizenship under penalty of perjury, but not to show proof.

Last year, the Supreme Court struck down Arizona’s tough laws on illegal immigration. The point that keeps being made is that Arizona, and other states, do not have the authority to make laws affecting border security, immigration and federal elections on their own, without the federal government.

Arizona can still ask the federal government to include extra documents as a state-specific requirement, and appeal the decision to the Supreme Court if the request is denied.

Should people be required to prove their citizen ship in order to vote? Tell us in the comments!