Supreme Court Voter Registration Case Addresses Citizenship Issue

The Supreme Court is to deal with the validity of an Arizona law that prohibits illegal immigrants to vote by demanding all state residents show documents proving their U.S. citizenship before registering to vote in national elections.

Arizona is asking the high court to uphold its process for registering voters. Photo: Mike Renlund/Flickr

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments Monday consdering the legality of Arizona’s 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 that doesn’t require such documentation.

This particular case is focused on voter registration in Arizona state, which is puzzled with the federal policy over immigration issues involving the Mexican border.

However, it includes broader implications because four other states – Alabama, Georgia, Kansas and Tennessee – have similar requirements, and 12 other states are contemplating similar legislation, The Huffington Post reports.

If Arizona can add citizenship requirements, then “each state could impose all manner of its own supplemental requirements beyond the federal form,” Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. said in court papers.

“Those requirements could encompass voluminous documentary or informational demands, and could extend to any eligibility criteria beyond citizenship, such as age, residency, mental competence, or felony history.”

A federal appeals court cut off the part of Arizona’s Proposition 200 that included extra citizenship requirements for voter registration, but only after lower federal judges had approved it.

Kathy McKee, who struggled for getting the proposition on the ballot, insists that voter fraud, including by illegal immigrants, continues to be a problem in Arizona. “For people to conclude there is no problem is just shallow logic,” McKee said.

Proposition 200 “was never intended to combat voter fraud,” claimed Democratic state Sen. Steve Gallardo of Phoenix. “It was intended to keep minorities from voting.”

With the additional state requirements, Arizona will cripple the effectiveness of neighborhood and community voter registration drives, advocates say.

More than 28 million Americans used the federal “Motor Voter” form to vote in the 2008 presidential elections, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

“An Arizona victory at the high court would lead to more state voting restrictions”, predicts Elisabeth MacNamara, the national president of the League of Women Voters.

Opponents “argue that Arizona should not be permitted to request evidence of citizenship when someone registers to vote, but should instead rely on the person’s sworn statement that he or she is a citizen,” Arizona Attorney General Thomas C. Horne said in court papers.

“The fallacy in that is that someone who is willing to vote illegally will be willing to sign a false statement. What (opponents) are urging is that there should be nothing more than an honor system to assure that registered voters are citizens. That was not acceptable to the people of Arizona.”

Former Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce, a leading Republican proponent of Proposition 200, denies claims that the state doesn’t have voter fraud problems. “They turn a blind eye,” Pearce said of the state’s election officials.

However, Karen Osborne, elections director for Maricopa County, a home to nearly 60 percent of Arizona’s voters, said voter fraud is rare, and even rarer among illegal immigrants.

“That just does not seem to be an issue,” Osborne said of the claim that illegal immigrants are voting. “They did not want to come out of the shadows. They don’t want to be involved with the government.”

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