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Supreme Court to consider Arizona voter eligibility law

The US Supreme Court [official website] on Monday granted [order list, PDF] review of Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc. [docket; cert petition, PDF], the first case of the term where they will consider one of the states' new voting laws [JURIST backgrounder]. Arizona's 2004 Proposition 200 [PDF], in part, requires citizens to show "proof of citizenship" in addition to photo identification, to vote. The court will determine if this requirement violates the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) [materials]. The court will also look at if the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in their ruling, erred by creating a heightened presumption test of the Elections Clause [text] of the Constitution. The lower courts suggested that the presumption against preempting [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] a state's laws do not apply when the Elections Clause is in play, and that election law is a federal province to which a state must strictly conform. Justice Anthony Kennedy stayed [JURIST report] the law in June, which blocked the law's implementation for this election season, but vacated the stay [order, PDF] later that month.

When at the polls, potential Arizona voters are already required to produce photo ID [JURIST report], but when registering to vote, Proposition 200 would require them to prove their citizenship. However, because registering to vote is a federal process, the state forms cannot contradict the federal forms. If one registered at a state office, one would have to provide an Arizona driver's license, a US passport, a birth certificate or naturalization documents. However, if one registered by mail or online using the federal form, they could escape this requirement—the federal form relies on an "honor system" where one checks a box saying they are a citizen. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, sitting en banc struck down the citizenship requirement [JURIST report] in April. This followed a three-judge panel panel [JURIST report] ruling in October that reached the same conclusion. Among the members of the three-judge panel was retired Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Arizona appealed [JURIST report] the ruling to the Supreme Court in June.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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