The U.S. Supreme Court struck down an Arizona law requiring prospective voters to prove they are citizens, as voting rights advocates wait for a ruling on the fate of the Voting Rights Act. NY1's Washington bureau reporter Michael Scotto filed the following report.
In a 7-2 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that states cannot require prospective voters to show proof of citizenship on federal voter registration forms.
The decision strikes down an Arizona law requiring applicants to attach photocopies of passports or birth certificates to federal forms that ask prospective voters to swear, under penalty of perjury, that they are citizens.
The court ruled that federal law prohibits Arizona from seeking additional information.
Justice Antonin Scalia writes, "Arizona's reading would permit a state to demand of federal form applicants every additional piece of information the State requires on its state-specific form. If that is so, the federal form ceases to perform any meaningful function."
"The voting rights community is very pleased and happy with the decision that came out in this case," said Nicole Austin-Hillery of the Brennan Center for Justice.
Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito disagreed with the majority's opinion, arguing that states can go beyond the federal government's requirements.
According to Thomas, "It matters not whether the United States has specified one way in which it believes Arizona might be able to verify citizenship; Arizona has the independent constitutional authority to verify citizenship in the way it deems necessary."
Legal experts who agree with Thomas point out that states still have other options.
"Arizona also has a state registration form, and the court ruled for that state form they can have a proof of citizenship requirement," said Hans von Spakovsky of The Heritage Foundation. "Also, the court said this doesn't prevent the state from saying someone is ineligible to register if they got information in their possession that shows they're not qualified."
The decision in this case comes as voting rights advocates are waiting for the court to issue a big opinion on the constitutionality of a key part of the Voting Rights Act.
Legal scholars say the cases are entirely different. A decision in the Voting Rights case could be announced as early as Thursday.
This case could also end up playing a role in the debate over immigration reform. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas announced over Twitter on Monday that he will push for an amendment to the immigration bill that would allow states to require ID for federal voter registration forms.