States Seeking Voter Citizenship Proof Denied by U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court Justices Issue Term's Last Rulings

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider letting states require evidence of citizenship when people register to vote for federal elections, rejecting an appeal from Arizona and Kansas.

The rebuff is a victory for the Obama administration and voting- and minority-rights groups that battled the two states in court. It leaves intact a decision by a U.S. agency that blocked the states from requiring proof of citizenship for voters in federal elections.

It’s the second high court defeat on the issue for Arizona. The state has a law that requires evidence of citizenship, but the Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that it couldn’t be enforced when people use a standard registration document known as the “federal form” to register to vote for Congress and the president.

That 7-2 ruling left open the possibility that Arizona could impose its requirements through a different avenue. The court said the state could submit a request to the agency that developed the form, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, asking it to tell Arizona voters they needed to supply proof of citizenship.

Request Denied

Arizona and Kansas made that request, and the EAC refused, saying the states didn’t need evidence of citizenship to verify voter eligibility. The agency pointed to the federal form’s requirement that prospective voters swear that they are citizens, under penalty of perjury.

Arizona and Kansas sued, and a federal appeals court agreed with the EAC, saying the 2013 Supreme Court ruling gives the commission latitude to reject unnecessary requests.

A 1993 law lets states use their own voter-registration forms as long as they also accept the federal form. Arizona and Kansas both demand proof of citizenship from would-be voters when they use the state registration application.

Arizona and Kansas said in their appeal that they now have two different voter lists -- one of people eligible only for federal elections and one of those who can cast ballots in state elections as well.

The Obama administration and voting-rights groups including the League of Women Voters urged the Supreme Court not to hear the appeal. Several minority-rights groups, including the Arizona chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens, backed the EAC at the appeals court level.

The case is Kobach v. U.S. Election Assistance Commission, 14-1164.