As Democrats, we’re committed to ensuring that the process for voting remains open and fair for all Americans. The Supreme Court’s recent decision striking down Proposition 200 is a big step in the right direction.
In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court rejected an Arizona law requiring voters to provide documentation proving U.S. citizenship. Writing for the majority, Justice Scalia said that federal law, “precludes Arizona from requiring a federal form applicant to submit information beyond that required by the form itself.”
The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 permits voters to register using a federal form by swearing under penalty of perjury that they are indeed citizens. However, in 2004 Arizona passed Proposition 200, which required voters to verify that they were citizens by presenting documents, including birth certificates, passports, naturalization papers or driver’s licenses issued after 1996. If a voter was unable to provide the necessary documentation, then Arizona was able to reject the federal registration application form.
Let’s be clear: This proposition was nothing more than a tool to suppress voter turnout – particularly amongst minority populations. Since it was enacted in 2004, it blocked more than 31,000 possibly legal voters — 20% of whom were Hispanic. These voters would have been able to register prior to the law passing.
While the Supreme Court said that states cannot add further identification requirements to the federal forms unilaterally, the Court also said that state governments could add further identification requirements so long as they get the approval of the federal government and the federal courts. Arizona had that option but failed to ask the Election Assistance Commission to make changes to the federal form.
While Justice Scalia suggested that Arizona could ask again, we’re hopeful that the Supreme Court’s ruling is a wake up call to States across the country. Voting rights should not be suppressed.