Justice Scalia voted with the majority as the Supreme Court today struck down Arizona’s Proposition 200, the voter-approved law that would have required anyone wanting to use the Federal “Motor Voter” registration form, to first prove their citizenship. Writing for the majority, Justice Scalia said that federal law: “precludes Arizona from requiring a federal form applicant to submit information beyond that required by the form itself.”
Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, who usually side with Justice Scalia, both dissented from the decision, making Scalia’s position all the more surprising. Justice Thomas wrote the dissent, saying the Constitution “authorizes states to determine the qualifications of voters in federal elections, which necessarily includes the related power to determine whether those qualifications are satisfied.”
The 1993 Federal Motor Voter Law allows people to register to vote when they get their driver’s licenses. Arizona objected to the part of that law that allows an applicant to use a mail-in postcard, requiring them to sign “on penalty of perjury” that they are a citizen. Proposition 200, passed by popular vote in 2004, required an applicant to show proof of citizenship before being given a mail in card.
Kathy McKee, who led the fight to have Proposition 200 put on the 2009 ballot was outraged at the Court’s decision. “To even suggest that the honor system works, really?” She reacted. “You have to prove who you are just to use your charge card now.”
Opponents of Proposition 200 claim at least 31,000 potential voters who could easily have registered before Proposition 200, were blocked from voting after its passage in 2004. Nina Perales, lead council for the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona which challenged the new restrictions, told reporters “Today’s decision sends a strong message that states cannot block their citizens from registering to vote by superimposing burdensome paperwork requirements on top of federal law. The Supreme Court has affirmed that all U.S. citizens have the right to register to vote using the national postcard, regardless of the state in which they live.”
The ruling will also strike down similar provisions in Georgia, Kansas, Alabama and Tennessee, and halt the progress of bills requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote from advancing in 12 other states.
Justice Scalia’s photo is from his Facebook page
Jean Ann Esselink is a straight friend to the gay community. Proud and loud Liberal. Closet writer of political fiction. Black sheep agnostic Democrat from a conservative Catholic family. Living in Northern Oakland County Michigan with Puck the Wonder Beagle.
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