The Supreme Court has struck down an Arizona law which required that people prove their citizenship before getting a federal “motor voter” registration form. The 1993 law “requires states to offer voter registration when a resident applies for a driver’s license or certain benefits.” The people filling out the form are required to swear they are US citizens under penalty of perjury, but the federal law doesn’t require that they offer any proof that they are citizens.
The Arizona law added that requirement, but the Supreme Court has tossed it out:
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court ruled Monday that states cannot require would-be voters to prove they are U.S. citizens before using a federal registration system designed to make signing up easier.
The justices voted 7-2 to throw out Arizona’s voter-approved requirement that prospective voters document their U.S. citizenship in order to use a registration form produced under the federal “Motor Voter” voter registration law.
Writing for the majority, Justice Scalia holds that federal law “precludes Arizona from requiring a Federal Form applicant to submit information beyond that required by the form itself. Arizona may, however, request anew that the EAC include such a requirement among the Federal Form’s state-specific instructions, and may seek judicial review of the EAC’s decision under the Administrative Procedure Act.”
In other words, Arizona can institute a requirement for identification for would-be voters, but they have to beg the federal government for permission.
“Under the Constitution, the States, not Congress, have the authority to establish the qualifications of voters in elections for Members of Congress,” writes Justice Alito in a dissent in which he was joined by Justice Thomas. “The Court interprets one provision [of federal law] to mean that, if an applicant fills out the federal form, a State must register the applicant without requiring proof of citizenship. But the Court does not question Arizona’s authority under another provision of the NVRA, §1973gg–4(a)(2), to create its own application form that demands proof of citizenship; nor does the Court dispute Arizona’s right to refuse to register an applicant who submits that form without the requisite proof. I find it very hard to believe that this is what Congress had in mind.”
The law requires that voters be citizens. The law requires that those registering through “motor voter” forms swear an oath that they are citizens, for which they can be prosecuted for perjury if they lie. But somehow, a state requiring proof that the oath the citizens are swearing is accurate is unconstitutional and, according to the opponents of this law, some sort of a racist attack on minorities?
Asking citizens to swear an oath under penalty of law means absolutely nothing if we do nothing to verify that what they’re swearing to is true.
But hey, if you don’t like the Supreme Court’s ruling, at least you can go stand outside the court and express yourself. Except, wait a minute…