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U.S. Supreme Court Overturns Arizona Voter Registration Law Requiring Documentary Proof of Citizenship

On June 17, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down an Arizona voter registration law requiring documentary proof of citizenship from people seeking to vote in federal elections. In Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc., --- S.Ct. ----, 2013 WL 2922124 (U.S. Jun. 17, 2013), the Court held that Arizona’s proof of citizenship requirement was preempted by the National Voter Registration Act (“Act”), which requires States to “accept and use” a uniform federal form to register voters for federal elections.

In 2004, Arizona voters passed Proposition 200, a state initiative that, in part, amended the procedures for voter registration and for checking voter identification at the polls. Under Proposition 200, the contents of the state voter registration form were changed to require evidence of U.S. citizenship with the voter registration application. If no documentary evidence is included with an application, the application would be rejected. Proposition 200 also amended Arizona Revised Statute s. 16-166 to read “the County Recorder shall reject any application for registration that is not accompanied by satisfactory evidence of United States citizenship,” such as a driver’s license, birth certificate, passport, naturalization documents, or specific cards relating to Native American tribal status. Plaintiffs filed suit in federal court, arguing that Proposition 200 violated the Act to the extent that Proposition 200 regulated federal registration procedures. The District Court granted summary judgment to the State on the plaintiff’s claim that the Act preempted the documentary proof of citizenship requirement, but the Ninth Circuit held that the new law was preempted by the Act.

In a 7-2 decision, the Court held that the phrase “accept and use” under the Act meant that the federal form must be accepted as sufficient. Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said that the State was not without recourse. The Act does authorize the States to request that the federal Election Assistance Commission (“EAC”) alter the federal form to include information that the State deems necessary to determine voter eligibility. However, the federal form must be accepted as a simple means of registering voters in federal elections.

Attorneys in WSH's Litigation Division have extensive experience in municipal litigation. We defend municipalities and governmental agencies in all areas of liability, including negligence, tort liability, complex constitutional law issues, sovereign immunity, qualified immunity, civil rights, torts and common law claims. We also defend elected officials, employees, individual departments, branches and divisions in both State and Federal courts at the trial and appellate levels. We have successfully defended law enforcement personnel in the areas of false arrest, excessive force, malicious prosecution and battery, including in §1983 actions.

Our Appellate Practice Group handles dozens of appeals generated each year by our trial practice, and its attorneys are frequently called upon to serve as appellate counsel for our peers. Attorneys in our Appellate Practice Group include Florida Board-certified experts, and have a record of successfully pursuing and defending appeals of final judgments and verdicts, as well as non-final, interlocutory appeals, on behalf of public and private sector clients throughout the State.

Categories: LitigationFederal LawFederal CourtsConstitutional Law
Tags: Governmental LitigationPreemptionJamie A. ColeEdward G. GuedesMichael S. PopokJoseph H. SerotaLaura K. WendellMatthew H. MandelFort Lauderdale Appellate Law AttorneysMiami Appellate Law AttorneysSouth Florida Appellate Law AttorneysFort Lauderdale LitigatorsMiami LitigatorsSouth Florida LitigatorsFlorida Litigation AttorneysFort Lauderdale Civil Litigation AttorneysMiami Litigation Attorney
Author(s): Brooke P. Dolara