Siding with the Obama administration, the US Supreme Court on Monday tossed out a provision in a Arizona state law requiring proof of citizenship for registration as a voter.
With a 7-2 majority, the apex court ruled that the state’s voter-approved law interfered with federal law designed to make voter registration easier.
Opponents of the law saw it as an attack on vulnerable voter groups such as minorities, immigrants and the elderly, while the state called the provision a “sensible precaution” to prevent voter fraud.
Civil rights group countered that it added an unconstitutional and burdensome layer of paperwork for tens of thousands of citizens.
The Obama Justice Department opposed the Arizona law, which went beyond what other states have done to ensure integrity in the registration system.
The case focuses on Arizona but the decision would have wider implications as four other states – Alabama, Georgia, Kansas and Tennessee – have similar requirements, and 12 other states are contemplating such legislation.
A single judge of the apex court a year ago blocked the Arizona law from being enforced, while the full court decided internally whether to accept pending appeals for review.
Designed to streamline election participation, the federal law called the Motor Voter Law requires states to have any application for a driver’s license treated also as a voter registration — the “motor voter.”
It requires states to “accept and use” mail-in and in-person applications. A federal Election Assistance Commission was created to produce a nationally uniform voter application form, which states must use.
Any extra state instructions, or “add-ons,” must be approved by the commission.
The question before the court was whether certain extra instructions are permitted, and just how the federal form must be respected in the first place.