Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Invalidates Arizona Proof of Citizenship Voter Registration Procedures

In its October 26, 2010 decision, the Ninth Circuit held that Arizona’s documentary proof of citizenship requirement for all new voter registrants violates the National Voter Registration Act (“NVRA”).

As background, on November 24, 2004, Arizona initiative Proposition 200 enacted revisions to Arizona’s election laws.  One such revision was the requirement that each new voter registration application must be accompanied by evidence of United States citizenship.  In the years since its passage, tens of thousands of voter registrations forms lacking such proof have been rejected, including those of US citizens lacking the Arizona required proof.

Plaintiffs challenging Proposition 200 alleged that requiring proof of US citizenship for all new voter registrants violates the NVRA because the NVRA requires states to accept and use the federal voter registration forms without additional documentary requirements.

Notwithstanding the NVRA, Arizona rejected all new voter registration applications which did not contain proof of US citizenship.

In its 2-1 opinion, the Ninth Circuit held that given the paramount authority delegated to Congress by the Elections Clause of the Constitution, the NVRA, which implemented a comprehensive national system for registering federal voters, superceded Arizona’s conflicting voter registration requirement for federal elections contained in Proposition 200.