Yesterday, the Supreme Court handed down one of its first major decisions of this term, striking down Arizona’s measure requiring proof of citizenship for voter registration. Media reports are already off base in interpreting this decision, says Heritage legal expert Hans von Spakovsky. Here are three things to know about the decision:
1. This is not a voter ID decision.
This decision has to do with voter registration, not the act of voting. Von Spakovsky explains- “In 2004, Arizona voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum that had two major components: voter ID for in-person voting and a requirement that anyone registering to vote provide proof of citizenship. The voter ID provision was not before the Supreme Court and is alive and well in Arizona.”
Although it did not strike down the provision that requires a photo ID for in-person voting, von Spakovsky said “the Supreme Court came down on the wrong side of election integrity” with this ruling.
2. Federal law already mandates that a person must be a U.S. citizen to vote.
The Court’s ruling does not mean that requiring proof of citizenship is bad or wrong. In fact, people are supposed to vote only if they are citizens.
The Court ruled the way it did because there is already a federal law requiring people to affirm that they are U.S. citizens when they register to vote.Which means all they have to do is state that they are a US Citizen, there’s not even a “citizen” check-off box on ballot applications Most people register using the federal mail-in form under the “Motor Voter” law.
3. States do determine the qualifications of their voters.
If Arizona has information about a voter that shows he or she is not eligible to vote, then the state still decides who is a legitimate voter.
The majority of the justices said that federal requirement “preempts” Arizona’s requirement, which simply means the federal law comes first.
But Arizona residents can register to vote using the federal form or a state form. Von Spakovsky notes that “Arizona can continue to require proof of citizenship for anyone who registers using the state form.” If they use the Federal form – all bets are off.
Justice Clarence Thomas, one of the two dissenting votes, explained:
I think that both the plain text and the history of the Voter Qualifications Clause and the Seventeenth Amendment authorize States to determine the qualifications of voters in federal elections, which necessarily includes the related power to determine whether those qualifications are satisfied. To avoid substantial constitutional problems created by interpreting [this section of NVRA] to permit Congress to effectively countermand this authority, I would construe the law as only requiring Arizona to accept and use the form as part of its voter registration process, leaving the State free to request whatever additional information it determines is necessary to ensure that voters meet the qualifications it has the constitutional authority to establish. Under this interpretation, Arizona did “accept and use” the Federal Form. Accordingly, there is no conflict between [Arizona law] and [federal law] and, thus, no pre-emption…
Instead of adopting [the challengers’] definition of “accept and use” and offering Arizona the dubious recourse of bringing an APA challenge within the NVRA framework, I would adopt an interpretation of [NVRA] that avoids the constitutional problems with [the challengers’] interpretation. The States, not the Federal Government, have the exclusive right to define the “Qualifications requisite for Electors,” [“electors” are voters,] which includes the corresponding power to verify that these qualifications have been met. I would, therefore, hold that Arizona may “reject any application for registration that is not accompanied by satisfactory evidence of United States citizenship,” as defined by Arizona law.
While I understand the decision by SCOTUS, and on the surface it makse sense, I don’t agree with it. It’s back to status quo.
Do you agree with the Supreme Court’s decision or do the state laws need more teeth?