Sierra Vista Herald
Arizona is again at the forefront of a legal battle that is likely headed to the U.S. Supreme Court to settle another “states rights” question.
Wednesday, Secretary of State Ken Bennett and Attorney General Tom Horne hosted a press conference to announce their respective public offices have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission.
At issue is Arizona’s request to require people registering to vote to prove their citizenship.
In June, the Supreme Court ruled that for federal elections, Arizona must follow the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which allows voters to register using a federal form that asks, “Are you a citizen of the United States?” Prospective voters must check a box for yes or no, and they must sign the form, swearing under the penalty of perjury that they are citizens.
The margin of that Supreme Court decision — 7-2 — would seem to suggest that Wednesday’s announcement by Bennett and Horne is already doomed to failure. After all, the June decision was the second time within the past few years that the court has rejected Arizona laws that state officials have argued are justified as responses to illegal immigration.
Without proof of citizenship — a passport, birth certificate or other source document — state officials argue the integrity of the election system can be easily compromised by illegal immigrants who simply lie on the federal voter registration form.
This time, Bennett and Horne are suing a federal commission that has not had enough members to meet since 2011. Appointment to four open seats on the EAC has been stalled in Congress, like many other federal appointments.
By suing the EAC, the state is not battling the question of whether it can put additional requirements to prove citizenship on federal forms. Instead, it is legally accusing the EAC of “failing to act” on the Arizona “proof of citizenship” request.
Whether the technicality is enough to accomplish the state’s goal of raising the bar for voter registration will take months — possibly more than a year — to settle, or again be brought before the nation’s highest court.