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Supreme Court to take up Arizona voter law

Tim Powers

Law Office of Tim Powers


WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to decide whether Arizona may require proof of citizenship in order to register to vote in federal elections. The federal appeals court in San Francisco had blocked the state law, saying it conflicted with a federal one.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case early next year, and the law will remain suspended in the meantime.

The state law requires prospective voters to prove they are citizens by providing copies of or information concerning various documents, including birth certificates, passports, naturalization papers or Arizona drivers licenses, which are available only to people lawfully present in the state.

The federal law, the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, allows voters to register using a federal form that asks, "Are you a citizen of the United States?" Prospective voters must check a box for yes or no, and they must sign the form, swearing they are citizens under penalty of perjury.

The question for the justices is whether the state was entitled to supplement those federal requirements with its own. A divided 10-judge panel of the appeals court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, ruled that the two sets of requirements "do not operate harmoniously" and "are seriously out of tune with each other in several ways."

The federal law requires state officials to "accept and use" the federal form, Judge Sandra Ikuta wrote for an eight-judge majority, while the additional requirements sometimes make that impossible. The requirements were also at odds with the federal law's attempt to streamline the registration process, she wrote.

In a concurrence, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski said he found the case "difficult and perplexing," largely because the Supreme Court has not set out principles for how to reconcile federal and state responsibilities for conducting federal elections.

In urging the Supreme Court to hear the case, Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, No.12-71, state officials said the federal form, the state wrote, amounts to an inadequate "honor system."

If you are seeking aggressive criminal representation by an experienced criminal defense attorney for your Denton County criminal case or arrest in Denton County, contact the offices of Tim Powers today. There is no charge or obligation for the initial consultation. 940.580.2899.

*Tim Powers is an attorney licensed to practice law by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice about any specific legal question you should directly consult an attorney.