The state of Arizona on Wednesday filed an Application to Stay Mandate [text, PDF] asking the US Supreme Court [official website] to allow state election officials to demand voters to show proof of citizenship before registering to vote. In April, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website], sitting en banc, upheld [JURIST report] a portion of Arizona's 2004 Proposition 200 [amendment, PDF] which requires voters to show identification at the polls, while striking down the provision now before the Supreme Court that further requires proof of citizenship to register to vote in federal elections. The court had ruled that the law was inconsistent with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) [materials] which had the purpose of increasing voter registration by removing state imposed registration barriers. Arizona argued that the Ninth Circuit erroneously interpreted the Elections Clause and the NVRA and that its decision threatens to prevent states from ensuring fair federal elections. The state pointed out that the Ninth Circuit erroneously concluded that the federal form of checking US citizenship superseded any requirement under state law relating to proof of citizenship. However, the Elections Clause permits states to exercise broad powers in prescribing the procedural mechanisms for holding congressional elections, according to Arizona.
The en banc decision is similar to the decision of a three-judge panel for the Ninth Circuit that was delivered [JURIST report] in October 2010. The panel struck down the portion of an Arizona law requiring proof of citizenship for voter registration and held that the state law was inconsistent with the NVRA while upholding the requirement of showing proof of identification before casting a ballot. The panel's decision closely resembles the Supreme Court's October 2006 decision [JURIST report] in which it held that Arizona can enforce the law requiring voters to show government-issued ID cards at the polls. It concluded that the law would not necessarily result in the turning away of qualified, registered voters by election officials for lack of proper identification. The Supreme Court had upheld similar laws in other states. In April 2008, the court let stand [JURIST report] Indiana's controversial voter identification statute requiring voters to present photo identification as a prerequisite to voting. It held that such requirement did not place an undue burden on voters and thus, did not violate the US Constitution.