The Supreme Court on Monday effectively upheld a lower court’s ruling that potential voters do not have to provide proof of citizenship when registering to vote with federal forms.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach led the suit against the U.S. Election Assistance Commission after it denied the state’s request to have would-be voters prove their citizenship while registering with a standardized federal form.
Arizona, which also has state laws requiring voters to provide proof of citizenship, had joined the suit against the commission.
But the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, effectively upholding the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals 2014 ruling, which leaves both states with no effective means of verifying the eligibility of voters who register with federal forms.
“This is a very big deal,” Rick Hasen, a professor at University of California Irvine School of Law, wrote on his election law blog Monday. “Kobach had the potential to shift more power away from the federal government in administering elections toward the states.”
Liberal “voter advocacy” groups celebrated the court’s decision, saying citizenship requirements are too much of a burden for many voters.
“Citizens can continue to participate in voter registration drives without worrying about not having proof of citizenship documents,” said Shirley Sandelands, of the League of Women Voters of Arizona, according to the online blog Roll Call.
“This is an important win for the National Voter Registration Act and an important step forward in making sure that all [who] are eligible are registered to vote,” President of the League of Women Voters of the U.S. Elisabeth MacNamara said in a statement.
The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case preserves the loophole that allows potential voters to avoid having to prove their citizenship status when registering, leaving many conservatives worried about the integrity of voter registration drives led by liberal activists.
Kobach, however, said Kansas would not give up the fight to ensure only citizens are registered to vote.
“Every time an alien votes, it may not steal an election, but it will cancel out a vote of a U.S. citizen,” Kobach said.
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