Arizona Voter Registration Law Ruled Illegal

Posted October 27, 2010 in Government by Arthur Buono

A federal appeals court dealt another blow to Arizona’s stance on immigration reform yesterday. The court struck down part of a 2004 state law requiring proof of citizenship for voter registration. Lawyers for several thousand persons who were denied registration hailed the decision.

     
  • Arizona law required proof of citizenship for voter registration
  • Federal law requires only that registrants swear they’re citizens
  • Federal law usually trumps state law – called preemption
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Proof of Citizenship Not Needed to Register

The court said Arizona’s law conflicted with the federal National Voter Registration Act. Federal law permits citizens to register to vote with a mail-in form. The form only requires the registrant to certify under penalty of perjury that he or she is an American citizen. Arizona can’t impose any additional proof under the doctrine of federal preemption.

There’s a long and unfortunate history of states denying citizens the right to vote. This mainly has been motivated by racial discrimination. It’s taken many clever forms, including poll taxes and literacy tests. Because of this, voter registration became a matter of federal concern with the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

Arizona’s law can’t be blamed for trying to prevent noncitizens from voting. Only citizens can vote legally. Opponents of the law said it unfairly, and of course illegally, prevented many people from registering who are too poor to obtain proof of citizenship. It’s still not the case in this country that everyone has a driver’s license, for example. But be informed that in Arizona and many other places, you can’t actually vote without identification. Get some, and get out and vote.

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