U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down Arizona Voter ID Law


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The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the Arizona voting law - what will Arizona do next? Image by SANET STEYN

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the Arizona voting law – what will Arizona do next? Image by SANET STEYN

Majority Held Federal Law Does Not Require Proof of Citizenship

Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said the NVRA prevents Arizona from demanding information from potential voters beyond what is required on the federal registration form.

Scalia also wrote under the Elections Clause of the Constitution, the federal government can override the states in establishing “times, places and manner of holding elections.” While states have the right to play a part in regulating federal elections, the powers they have are subject to federal law. The federal law therefore prevents states from requiring information in addition to what the federal government requires on voter registration forms.

Dissenting Justices Found States Have a Say Too

Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas found states have the right under the Constitution to determine the qualification of their residents to vote in federal elections and federal laws cannot change this right.

Thomas wrote, “I would construe the law as only requiring Arizona to accept and use the form as part of its voter registration process, leaving the state free to request whatever additional information it determines is necessary.”

Does Arizona Have a Remedy?

Given the fact the country’s highest court has rejected Arizona’s argument that persons registering to vote provide proof of US citizenship, can the state do anything to be able to legally request further information? According to Justice Scalia, who appeared sympathetic to the state’s desire to prevent non-citizens from voting, the answer is “yes.”

Arizona can apply to the Elections Assistance Commission to allow the state to request proof of American citizenship. The Commission is the agency that drafted the federal voter registration form and has the power to allow specific states to add additional requirements.

In 2005, shortly after Proposition 200 passed, Arizona applied to have the necessity of Voter ID added as a requirement on the form. The Commission split 2-2 and the request was denied. However the Commission did approve a similar request later made by Louisiana.

Voter ID laws in other states, may be affected by the ruling, depending upon the exact wording of their legislation.


Supreme Court of the United States. Arizona et. al. v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc. et. al.. (2013). Accessed June 18, 2013.

Department of Justice. The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA). (1994). Accessed June 18, 2013.

Arizona Department of State. Proposition 200. (2004). Accessed June 18, 2013.

Washington Post. Supreme Court says Arizona cannot demand proof of citizenship for federal voter registration. (2013). Accessed June 18, 2013.

Business Week. Voter Proof-of-Citizenship Voided by Supreme Court. (2013). Accessed June 18, 2013.

USA Today. Justices: Arizona voter registration rules go too far. (2013). Accessed June 18, 2013.

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