On June 17, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Arizona v. The Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc. that Proposition 200, an Arizona law requiring applicants to present documentary proof of citizenship as a condition for voter registration, is preempted by Congress’s power to regulate federal elections.
In October 2010, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that Arizona’s documentary proof of citizenship requirement for voter registration violates the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). In April 2012, the en banc Court agreed with the earlier panel decision that the Arizona proof of citizenship requirement was preempted by the NVRA. Arizona requested that the Supreme Court review the Ninth Circuit’s decision, and in October 2012, the Supreme Court granted certiorari.
The Brennan Center, along with the Constitutional Accountability Center, filed an amicus brief on behalf of constitutional law professors explaining that in enacting the NVRA, Congress acted for the very reasons at the core of the text and history of the Elections Clause, using its express power to protect the right to vote and ensure a uniform method of voter registration across all fifty states. The amicus brief argues that Congress chose to “alter” state-law requirements such as Arizona’s and urges the Supreme Court to invalidate Proposition 200.
The Supreme Court decision upholds the Ninth Circuit ruling, rejecting Arizona’s effort to impose additional registration requirements that conflict with the NVRA’s requirement that states “accept and use” the standard federal voter registration form.
Supreme Court Filings
- Supreme Court Decision
- Brief of Petitioner Arizona
- Brief of Petitioners 26 County Recorders and County Election Directors
- Brief for Gonzalez Respondents
- Brief for Respondents Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc.
Amicus Briefs Filed in the Supreme Court on Behalf of Respondents
- Brief of Constitutional Law Professors: This brief demonstrates that the text and history of the Elections Clause give Congress the express power to “make or alter” state law in order to protect the right to vote in federal elections and ensure uniform rules for the time, place, and manner of federal elections.
- Brief of Community Voter Registration Organizations: This brief argues that community-based voter registration efforts are made more difficult, less effective, and more expensive as a result of Proposition 200’s proof of citizenship requirements.
- Brief of League of Women Voters: This brief explains that Congress intended for the NVRA to preempt state law and rejected the inclusion of a requirement for documentary proof of citizenship on the federal form.
- Brief of Election Administrators: This brief demonstrates that non-citizen voting is extremely uncommon. Additional proof of citizenship requirements impose substantial burdens on voters that already have and would continue to prevent thousands of eligible citizens from registering to vote, and also increase the likelihood of errors and delays.
- Brief of Members of Congress: This brief discusses the legislative history of the NVRA and argues that Proposition 200 is inconsistent with the NVRA’s “accept and use” requirement.
- Brief of Overseas Vote Foundation, Federation of American Women’s Club Overseas, American Citizens Abroad, Military Spouses of Michigan, and Arizona Students’ Association: This brief argues that Proposition 200’s citizenship documentation requirement is especially burdensome for overseas servicemembers and civilians, college students, and residents of long-term care facilities, groups that have received special congressional protection when it comes to the right to vote.
- Brief of NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc., the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the Anti-Defamation League: This brief demonstrates that Congress enacted the NVRA in response to persisting discriminatory voting laws and to equalize access to voter registration, and asserts that Proposition 200 is inconsistent and preempted by the NVRA.
Appellate Court Filings