TBA Law Blog

Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Jun 17, 2013

The U.S. Supreme Court today struck down Arizona's requirement that would-be voters submit proof of citizenship, the ABA Journal reports. The majority opinion, authored by Justice Antonin Scalia, found that the law conflicted with the federal "motor voter" law, which allows individuals to register to vote without supplying proof of citizenship. The court also was unconvinced that the federal voter registration form needs to be changed to include additional information, which the state said it needed to determine a voter’s eligibility. But Scalia said the state could petition the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to alter the form and then appeal any decision not to make changes.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito Jr. dissented from the decision arguing that it interprets “an ambiguous federal statute in a way that brushes aside the constitutional authority of the states" since "under the Constitution, the states, not Congress, have the authority to establish the qualifications of voters in elections for members of Congress." Civil liberties groups such as the ACLU applauded the ruling saying it invalidated a burdensome requirement that restricted citizens' ability to register to vote." Writing at SCOTUSblog, however, one law professor warned the ruling should not be read too broadly as the case “involved a question of statutory construction, not a constitutional challenge."