Should voters be required to prove they are citizens?
On the one hand, I celebrate this decision by a judge in a in district court as a victory for federalism. But having to "prove" you are a citizen in order to register to vote? Presenting drivers licenses in order to cast a ballot is appropriate. But it's a bother to have to prove your citizenship, and would be a burden for someone like me who doesn't have a passport or a handy copy of my birth certificate. I believe voting should be made as easy as possible, understanding the necessity to safeguard the ballot. But this mandate is too restrictive and would lead to fewer people voting. I can't see how making democracy less inclusive for anyone of any race to be a good thing.
I question how many illegals would be prevented from voting as a result of this requirement. Would it be enough to justify the additional burden?
Apparently, Kansas and Arizona think the answer to that is yes.
“This is a huge victory for me, personally, for the states of Kansas and Arizona, and for the whole cause of states’ rights,” said Kansas Secretary of State Kris W. Kobach, who led the challenge. “We’ve seen so many defeats recently in areas where the federal government has been encroaching on states’ authorities, and this time the good guys won.”
In his ruling, Judge Eric F. Melgren said the EAC, which Congress created after the 2000 Florida voting fiasco, must accede to states’ requests for people to provide proof of citizenship when they register to vote.
The judge said the Constitution gives states the power to determine voter qualifications, and if states want to insist on proof of citizenship, the election commission cannot overrule them.
“The EAC’s nondiscretionary duty is to perform the ministerial function of updating the instructions to reflect each state’s laws,” Judge Melgren ruled in a decision out of Kansas. “The court orders the EAC to add the language requested by Arizona and Kansas to the state-specific instructions of the federal mail voter registration form immediately.”
The ruling comes at a time when both Democrats and Republicans are paying increasing interest to the rules governing campaigns and voting. With the country ideologically split, each side is looking for an advantage at the ballot box.
Democrats say identification checks could prevent some eligible voters from casting ballots. Republicans generally argue for stiffer checks to prevent fraud.
Kansas and Arizona enacted requirements that voters prove their citizenship when they register. State registration forms were changed to add the requirement.
But the federal government, which also distributes voter registration forms in states under the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, or motor-voter law, refused to add the requirement.
Arizona then said it would refuse to process federal forms and ended up in court. Last year, in a case known as Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, the Supreme Court ruled that Arizona couldn’t reject the federal forms.
The important take away from this decision is that the court recognizes the state's being the final authority in running their own elections. We might disagree how they do it, but given federal overreach in this department in recent decades, this is certainly welcome news.