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Arizona, Kansas file suit seeking proof of voter citizenship

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett [official profiles] filed a complaint on Wednesday in the US District Court for the District of Kansas [official website] demanding that the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) [official website] modify federal voter registration forms to allow states to require proof of citizenship. In June the US Supreme Court [official website] struck down [JURIST report] Arizona's Proposition 200 [text], finding that Arizona's law requiring that proof of citizenship be provided in order to register to vote is preempted by federal law. However, the court preserved the states' rights to control who will vote by initiating separate litigation to request that the EAC include such a requirement among federal form's state-specific instructions. Kobach and Bennett have brought suit [Reuters report] in response, accusing the EAC of preventing them from enforcing state laws that require proof of citizenship as a way to prevent illegal immigrants from voting.

The controversial Proposition 200 was approved by Arizona voters in a 2004 referendum [JURIST report] and has remained a contentious voting rights [JURIST backgrounder] issue ever since. In April 2007 the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that Arizona could enforce its voter ID law while the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) [advocacy website] challenged the law in federal court. Later that year, a judge for the US District Court for the District of Arizona [official website] rejected several claims [JURIST report] made by MALDEF in a legal challenge to the law, including a claim that the ID law amounted to an unconstitutional poll tax. Additional claims included that the ID law disproportionately discriminates against minorities and that it violates the equal protection clause. In April 2012 the Ninth Circuit upheld [JURIST report] the portion of the law requiring voters to show ID at the polls but struck down the provision that required proof of citizenship to register to vote in federal elections, stating that the requirement was inconsistent with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) [materials], which was passed with the intent of increasing voter registration and removing barriers to registration imposed by the states. The Supreme Court granted certiorari [JURIST report] on the matter in October 2012.

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