WASHINGTON (AP) — States can't demand proof of citizenship from people registering to vote in federal elections any more. If they want to, they have to obtain federal government or court approval to do so, the Supreme Court ruled Monday in a decision complicating efforts in Arizona and other states to bar voting by targeted minority groups or who are in the country illegally.
Arch-conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote the court's majority opinion, said federal law "precludes Arizona from requiring a federal form applicant to submit information beyond that required by the form itself." That's from the right wing, folks. Scalia continues to impress me with his insistence that federal laws be followed to the letter. This is preventing the left and the right from tweeking federal laws to their liking and it is a major defense of the rule of law and our constitution. I never thought I'd ever say that about Scalia, but it's true.
Voting rights advocates cheered the Court's decision:
"Today's decision sends a strong message that states cannot block their citizens from registering to vote by superimposing burdensome paperwork requirements on top of federal law," said Nina Perales, vice president of litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. "The Supreme Court has affirmed that all U.S. citizens have the right to register to vote using the national postcard, regardless of the state in which they live."
Under Proposition 200 approved in 2004, Arizona officials required an Arizona driver's license issued after 1996, a U.S. birth certificate, a passport or other similar document before the state would approve the federal registration application. It can no longer do that on its own authority.
But fear not. As all hard right wing demagogues do, the losers in this case are continuing to ignore the federal courts and the rules laid out by the federal government. Matt Roberts, spokesman for Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, said that less than 5 percent of people registering to vote in Arizona use the federal form. He said the state will continue to use its state form meaning Arizona will continue to ask voters to provide proof of citizenship when signing up to vote.
The issue will be whether or not there will be a big enough campaign to educate voters that they can avoid the Arizona road block and simply register to vote by mail with a "motor voter" form.
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