Today, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of invalidating Proposition 200, an Arizona state law that required voters to provide proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. The Court decided that the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which only requires voters use a federal approved registration form, overrules the state law. Surprisingly, the decision was grudgingly approved by Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote on behalf of the Court’s majority that Federal law,
precludes Arizona from requiring a federal form applicant to submit information beyond that required by the form itself.
Arizona is notorious for enforcing stringent anti-immigration laws. These include SB 1070, which forces people to prove their citizenship if there is “reasonable suspicion” that they are in the country illegally. This invites much racial profiling against Latinos, Asian-Americans and anyone presumed to be “foreign”. Proposition 200, which became law in 2004, also was designed to make it harder for minorities and the poor to exercise their rights, because citizenship documents are often hard to obtain.
Although Justice Scalia wants this decision to be seen as merely a legal obligation to uphold federal law, today’s ruling is a victory for groups such as the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which have been lobbying to remove extra requirements from voting registration applications. It also sends a message of inclusiveness and equality, making it easier to vote rather than more difficult.
The ruling will also affect the states of Alabama, Georgia and Kansas—which have laws similar to Proposition 200—but there are worries that states may appeal to include a citizenship provision on or with federal forms in the future. Let’s hope that this is not the case and that, instead, this ruling will preclude other states from trying to follow in Arizona’s footsteps.
Photo of Supreme Court by Flickr user Mark Fischer under license from Creative Commons 2.0