Supreme Court to Rule on Arizona Voting Law, Action Delayed on Early Voting in Ohio

The Arizona Voter ID case has resurfaced, with the Supreme Court having agreed on Monday to rule on the constitutionality of a state requirement which requires voters to prove they are U.S. citizens prior to registering and casting a ballot.

The review of  Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc. was granted, though the court had previously rejected Arizona’s request to block a lower court decision that had struck down that requirement.  That particular law had been in effect since 2004, when “Proposition 200” was passed.

But, the Supreme Court will not rule on the case until after the election–in 2013. It will likely be argued in February and ruled on in June.

This case holds particular significance because:

  • Whether or not proof of citizenship will be required for registering and casting a ballot will be determined.
  • The court will clarify the cooperative, yet sometimes conflicting, roles of state governments and Congress in regulating election procedures.
  • The relationship between the Elections Clause, the Supremacy Clause and the National Voter Registration Act will be interpreted:

State legislatures, under the Constitution, are accorded the authority to decide “the time, place and manner” of holding elections. This includes elections for federal offices, but Congress is given the authority to “make or alter such regulations.”

The Ninth Circuit has interpreted the Elections Clause to bestow upon Congress full and final veto power over any state law or regulation related to federal elections

The Circuit Court held that the “presumption against preemption” that normally protects state laws, under the Supremacy Clause, does not apply when the Elections Clause is at issue.  And, it excused Congress from having to provide a plain statement of its intention to override the state procedure, when overruling a state on federal election procedures.

Hence, the Circuit Court made the determination that Arizona, in requiring that voters show specific documentation to prove citizenship, was in conflict with the National Voter Registration Act.

Though the Supreme Court will hear arguments on the Arizona voting case, no action has been taken by the Justices in regard to the controversial early voting case in Ohio.   SCOTUSblog reports the case is currently fully briefed and is expected to be addressed by the Court in the near future.