Should you have to show your birth certificate in order to register to vote? Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments over an Arizona state law passed in 2004 that requires proof of citizenship documents to determine voter registration legitimacy. The federal National Voter Registration Act says we only need to swear by affidavit that we are citizens, under penalty of perjury, to register to vote. But Arizona added the birth certificate test, mainly under the belief that unnaturalized immigrants were illegally registering and voting, despite any significant evidence supporting this. Instead, voting rights advocates say the law has made voting tougher for Latino- and Native Americans.
At issue is whether state voting laws can trump federal laws. If Arizona has its way, then copycat “proof of citizenship” laws could surface across the nation, creating unnecessary, additional burdens for voters, specifically people of color.
But on Monday, Justice Antonin Scalia — who last month pejoratively referred to the Voting Rights Act as a “racial entitlement” — said he saw nothing wrong with Arizona’s law. Ryan Reilly at Huffington Post said Scalia mocked the existing federal perjury penalty saying, “So it’s under oath, big deal. I suppose if you’re willing to violate the voting laws you’re willing to violate the perjury laws.”
Despite some waffling on the matter by Justice Anthony Kennedy, many voting rights advocates came out convinced that the Supreme Court would strike down Arizona’s law. Constitutional Accountability Center President Doug Kendall said:
“A majority of the Court, including Justice Kennedy, appeared to recognize that the entire point of having a single Federal form was to streamline the voter registration process, and that approving Arizona’s law would pave the way for a patchwork of 50 state forms. We are optimistic that that recognition will lead the Court to strike down Arizona’s law and respect Congress’ power to protect the right to vote in Federal elections.”
Also note, that while Arizona wants you to show a birth certificate to register vote, they don’t care much about if you have one if you want to register for a [concealed weapons permit] (http://www.azdps.gov/Services/Concealed_Weapons/Permits/Obtain/) — this in the land where former Congress member Gabby Giffords was shot along with thirteen others, six of whom were killed.