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U.S. Opinions: Fort Worth

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The right voter law ruling

From an editorial in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Wednesday:

In a lopsided 7-2 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday struck down an Arizona law requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote. The ruling was hailed by civil rights groups as a strong statement against what they see as attempts at voter suppression and derided by some conservatives who say more laws are needed to combat voter fraud.

The court, in concluding that Arizona’s Proposition 200 referendum conflicted with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) – commonly called the “motor voter” law and passed by Congress to simplify voter registration – properly struck a blow for the rights of those who had been disenfranchised by the state’s overreaching mandate.

Arizona’s law required voters to present documentation of citizenship (birth certificate, passport, naturalization papers, Indian tribal identification) when they registered to vote. The ballot initiative passed even though the state showed no evidence of fraudulent voter registration, according to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

The NVRA, which requires voter registration be offered at driver’s license offices, calls for states to “accept and use” a federal form on which a voter applicant signs an oath of citizenship, under the penalty of perjury. It does not require documentation.

The Supreme Court said the states can’t require more information than the federal law dictates without getting approval from the Elections Assistance Commission to add “state-specific” conditions.

Justice Antonin Scalia, writing the majority opinion, said Arizona still has the right to request that approval.

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