The Supreme Court heard arguments Monday afternoon regarding a 2004 Arizona proposition which requires state residents to provide proof of citizenship when registering to vote. Proposition 200 passed with 55 percent of the vote but not without a fight for voters rights advocates. The lower courts have struck down and upheld parts of the law. The Supreme Court will determine if the law interferes with an already existing federal law. The Arizona proposition represents the worst of this countries anti-immigrant tendencies attempting to disguise themselves as patriotism.
The National Voter Registration Act dictates all forms and procedures for state voter registration forms. Each eligibility requirement for voting is explicitly written on all voter registration forms. Most voters are able to register by swearing under oath, that they are citizens. When any individual signs a voter registration form, they do so under penalty of perjury. This means it’s already illegal to register to vote without being a U.S. citizen.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor clashed with Justice Antonin Scalia following statements from Arizona Attorney General Thomas C. Horne. Sotomayor believes the Arizona law would be a burdensome addition to the NVRA form already in existence. She also stated the proposition would hinder voter registration efforts and pointed out that some citizens just don’t have the forms required by the Arizona proposition. Justice Elena Kagan agreed with Sotomayor, saying that the Arizona law would create a new requirement and form which conflicts with the federal one.
Justice Scalia believes that the requirement would do little harm to voter registration efforts. He also doesn’t buy into the idea that attesting to citizenship under oath is a strong enough measure for determining voter eligibility.
The Obama administration is supporting challenges to the law. The Supreme Court will decide this case on whether or not the law in Arizona is too burdensome. If it reinstates the Arizona requirement, many other states are expected to follow suit. Opponents of the Arizona proposition say it will “surmount additional and unique hurdles to exercise their fundamental right to vote.”
In a friend-of-the-court brief, several groups point out the additional barriers naturalized citizens would encounter when attempting to prove citizenship. They say they can identify more than 31,000 legal voters in Arizona who were blocked by the law in the 20 months after it passed, 20 percent of whom were Latino.
The state is claiming that the requirements are simply to limit voter fraud. According to Karen Osborne, an elections director for Maricopa County, voter fraud is even more rare among undocumented citizens. Nationally, documented cases of voter fraud are incredibly rare.
The Arizona law appears to be more interested in curtailing broad voter participation than voter fraud. Restrictive voter ID laws or laws that require a proof of citizenship, limits the ability of Americans to freely and openly participate in democracy. These laws should be detested not celebrated.