WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled handily Monday that Arizona cannot add to federal voter registration requirements by demanding proof of citizenship.
The ruling, which could impact other states as well, is at least a temporary victory for liberals who want to expand access to the polls and a defeat for conservatives concerned about potential election fraud.
In a 7-2 decision written by Justice Antonin Scalia, the court said Arizona’s proof of citizenship requirement — passed by voters in 2004 — went too far beyond the 1993 federal “motor voter” law that was designed to simplify voter registration procedures.
The federal law requires registrants to claim U.S. citizenship on a mail-in post card, under penalty of perjury. The Arizona law requires separate physical proof of citizenship. The justices’ decision upholds congressional authority over federal elections and could make it harder for states to impose additional restrictions.
However, Scalia said Arizona could try a different approach to challenge the federal law’s pre-emption, thereby holding out the possibility that the state could resurrect its proof-of-citizenship requirement.
Four other states — Alabama, Georgia, Kansas and Tennessee — require proof of citizenship before residents can register to vote. About 30 states have voter identification requirements at the polls, designed to thwart impostors seeking to cast illegal ballots.