WASHINGTON (AP) — States can't demand proof of citizenship from people registering to vote in federal elections unless they get federal or court approval to do so, the Supreme Court ruled today in a decision complicating efforts in Arizona and other states to bar voting by people who are in the country illegally.
The justices' 7-2 ruling closes the door on states independently changing the requirements for those using the voter-registration form produced under the federal "motor voter" registration law. They would need permission from a federally created panel, the Election Assistance Commission, or a federal court ruling overturning the commission's decision, to make tougher requirements stick.
Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote the court's majority opinion, said federal law "precludes Arizona from requiring a federal form applicant to submit information beyond that required by the form itself."
Voting rights advocates welcomed the ruling.
"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," said Nina Perales, vice president of litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. "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."