The Supreme Court has struck down an Arizona law that requires proof of citizenship when registering to vote. The landmark Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona case has implications for the work of organizations like HeadCount that register voters across the U.S.
The basis of the ruling was that the Arizona law violated the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), enacted in 1993, which requires that the same federal voter registration form be accepted and used in all states. Arizona, seeking to prevent non-citizens from voting, enacted a law in 2004 that made it impossible to register to vote without presenting proof of citizenship, closing many potential paths to registration — including mail-in and online registration. By creating a separate system of validation, Arizona defied federal elections law, and today, the Supreme Court has invalidated that system.
This ruling raises interesting questions about the legality of similar laws in Alabama, Kansas and Georgia, but does not have immediate implications in the conflict over voter ID laws that accompanied the 2012 election. Arizona’s ID law affected who could register to vote, while voter ID laws require voters to present various forms of identification at the polls. The Court has also said that this decision will not affect whether the Court will vote to uphold a section of the Voting Rights Act that requires “places with a history of discrimination, including parts of Arizona, to get preclearance from the Justice Department or a federal district court in Washington, D.C. before they change their voting laws.”
The Court held that Arizona has the right to push for a change in the federal voter registration form to include required proof of citizenship. If the state decides to keep up the fight, voting rights activists will no doubt be there to meet them, newly motivated by today’s ruling.