Undeterred after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Arizona’s law requiring residents to prove their citizenship when registering to vote, the state is now suing the Obama administration to let them put the proof-of-citizenship requirement on voter registration forms.
In June, the Supreme Court ruled that Arizona’s requirement conflicted with the National Voter Registration Act, which requires states to use the same voter registration form for federal elections. The federal form already asks applicants to affirm their citizenship when they apply for social services or renew their driver’s license, pre-empting Arizona’s requirement.
But as TPM’s Sahil Kapur notes, Justice Antonin Scalia encouraged Arizona to launch a broader challenge to the NVRA form instead. “It would raise serious constitutional doubts if a federal statute precluded a State from obtaining the information necessary to enforce its voter qualifications,” Scalia wrote at the end of his decision.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said Wednesday that the new suit is “pursuing the path set out for us by the U.S. Supreme Court…in which the court required us to pursue certain avenues prior to their considering our consitutional argument.” Now, Horne has sued to force the Election Assistance Commission to add the proof-of-citizenship requirement to the form’s state-specific instructions.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach also joined the lawsuit. Kobach successfully crusaded for a proof of citizenship requirement in Kansas two years ago, but is now struggling to make the law work. About 15,000 Kansans have had their voting rights suspended largely because of a computer system delay that has not yet sent citizenship information to election officials.
Illegal non-citizen voting, meanwhile, essentially never happens, though Kobach claims Somali “aliens” are deciding elections and Horne charges that Obama wants “illegals” to vote. Other efforts to sniff out non-citizen voters in Florida and Colorado, found only one confirmed non-citizen voter.
Despite this nonexistent problem, Arizona’s new challenge could pave an alternative way forward for proof-of-citizenship laws in other states that were jeopardized by the Supreme Court’s decision.