Washington, D.C., – A coalition of voting rights advocates hailed this week’s order by the United States Supreme Court rejecting a challenge brought by Arizona and Kansas officials to federal procedures for establishing proof of United States citizenship when registering to vote. The Supreme Court’s order deniedcertiorari in Kobach v. U.S. Election Assistance Commission, No. 14-1164, and marks an important reaffirmation of the power of Congress to regulate voter registration for federal elections under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA).
“Congress passed the NVRA to guarantee citizens fair and convenient access to voter registration — regardless of whether states burden the voter registration process with unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles, said Ezra Rosenberg, co-director of the Voting Rights Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Arizona and Kansas had their day in court but simply failed to show the need for their proof of citizenship procedures.”
Attorneys for the Lawyers’ Committee and several other legal organizations and law firms represent the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc., the Arizona Advocacy Network, the League of United Latin American Citizens Arizona, and Maricopa County Commissioner Steve Gallardo as defendant-intervenors in the Kobach lawsuit, who oppose the effort by Arizona and Kansas to add documentary “proof of citizenship” requirements to the National Mail Voter Registration Form (Federal Form). The Federal Form is issued by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission pursuant to the NVRA, and allows citizens to establish their voting eligibility by an attestation of citizenship under oath, just as the vast majority of other states’ voter registration applications allow their citizens to do.
In an earlier lawsuit against Arizona, Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc., 133 S. Ct. 2247 (2013), in which the Lawyers’ Committee represented the same parties, the Supreme Court held that Arizona is required to “accept and use” the Federal Form regardless of whether the application satisfies the more burdensome proof of citizenship requirement those states have enacted.
After the ITCA decision, Arizona and Kansas unsuccessfully petitioned the EAC to conform the Federal Form to their state requirements, and then filed the Kobach lawsuit asking a federal court to order the EAC to modify the Federal Form to include their state requirements. Although a federal district court judge initially ruled in favor of the states, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals granted an immediate stay of the district court’s decision, and on November 7, 2014, the Tenth Circuit reversed the district court. This week’s Supreme Court order declined to review that Tenth Circuit decision.