The U.S. Supreme Court has taken another swipe at an Arizona statute that addresses the State’s response to illegal immigration. In Arizona v. Intertribal Council of Arizona, Inc., No. 12-71 (June 17, 2013), the Court invalidated part of Arizona’s voter registration law, which required applicants to submit documentary evidence of citizenship when registering to vote in federal elections by mail.
Under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (“NVRA”), states must “accept and use” a uniform federal form to register voters for federal elections (commonly referred to as the “Federal Form”), the contents of which are prescribed by the federal Election Assistance Commission. While the Federal Form requires only that an applicant aver under penalty of perjury that he or she is a citizen, Arizona’s voter registration law required actual evidence of citizenship. Under the Arizona statute, any Federal Form application unaccompanied by documentary evidence of citizenship, such as a photocopy of a birth certificate or driver’s license, was to be rejected by state elections officials. Ariz. Rev. Stat. §16-166(F). In its 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court held that Arizona’s requirement of evidence of citizenship conflicted with the NVRA’s mandate that states “accept and use” the Federal Form. As a result, Arizona applicants using the Federal Form now need only aver that they are citizens and do not need to submit any documentary evidence of citizenship.
While the ruling has been lauded by some who believe Arizona’s law chilled voting by immigrants and minorities and condemned by others who believe the ruling opens the polls to noncitizens, its impact is yet to be seen. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court’s decision represents the latest blow to Arizona’s efforts to legislate in the area of immigration. Since 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court has reviewed three separate Arizona immigration statutes, including the State’s controversial Senate Bill 1070 – portions of which were invalidated by the Court in June 2012. However, in May 2011, the Court upheld Arizona’s workplace legislation, the Legal Arizona Workers Act (“LAWA”), against challenges that it was preempted by federal immigration law. LAWA, which remains in effect today, imposes sanctions on employers that knowingly or intentionally hire unauthorized workers and requires employers to participate in the federal E-Verify program.