Supreme Court Strikes Down Arizona Law, Protects the Right to Vote

By U.S. PIRG Democracy Intern Matthew Flyr

This week, the Supreme Court strengthened our democracy by striking down a burdensome Arizona law that required physical proof of citizenship for voter registration.

Eligible voters should not have to jump through unnecessary hoops when registering to vote. With this ruling, the Supreme Court affirmed that principle.

Under the now-defunct law, Arizonans were required to follow both the 1993 federal “motor voter” law, and an additional state requirement of proof of citizenship. The existing federal law works: It requires registrants to claim citizenship on a mail-in postcard under penalty of perjury. The Arizona law required Arizonans to go further and provide physical proof of citizenship in the form of birth certificate, passport, naturalization papers or driver’s license.

The superfluous registration procedures required by Arizona’s law may have prevented thousands of citizens from voting. After the law was approved on referendum, under the guise of combating voter fraud, there was an astonishing 44 percent drop in registration in Maricopa County, one of Arizona’s largest counties. And in the three years after the law was put in place, nearly 30,000 people were turned away from the polls.

By striking down the Arizona law, the Supreme Court has significantly eased the process of voter registration, which should lead to increased registration and stronger election turnout. We hope this decision will spread to other states with similarly burdensome registration procedures, and encourage citizens across the country to cast their votes.

The Court’s decision took a major step toward protecting the public’s voice at the polls. Now, it’s time to continue working for further improvements, like making registration available online.