By Parwinder Sandhu
The infamous Arizona’s voter ID law that was in the midst of controversy ever since it came into existence was finally declared illegal by the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday. Out of the bench comprising of nine Justices, seven voted against the law while two favored it.
In its ruling the Supreme Court ruled that the states cannot demand proof of citizenship when prospective voters register to vote. The apex court ruled that the provision is at odds with a federal law that allows voters to register by swearing on a federal form under penalty of perjury that they are citizens. The federal law, The National Voter Registration Act of 1993, requires states to allow qualified voters to register when renewing a driver’s license or applying for social services.
The ruling that has now become a binding on state of Arizona by striking out Arizona’s voter-approved requirement under which the voters had to prove that they were the lawful US citizens in order to use a federal registration form, is bound to affect other states with similar laws. States including Alabama, Georgia and Kansas and 12 other states are expecting similar legislation.
Even since it came into existence, the law had a divided opinion upon its existence. While the States maintained that the laws were designed to prevent voter fraud, civil rights groups said the Arizona law was aimed at discouraging certain groups from voting including Native Americans, the elderly and minorities.
The state of Arizona, which shares a common border with Mexico, has been fighting a continuous battle with the federal government regarding the approval of passing tougher immigration laws. The voter-approved law, Proposition 200, was part of a package that also denied some government benefits to undocumented migrants in addition to requiring Arizonans to show identification before voting.
It may be noted judgement in the case came nearly seven years after Arizona residents, civil rights groups and members of Native American tribes sued to challenge the state measure, Proposition 200, which they said discriminated against eligible voters.
Jon Greenbaum, chief counsel for the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights under the law, said: “The ruling would be welcomed particularly by people who do not carry around identification, including students, Native American Indians and the elderly. It first brought the lawsuit in 2006. The federal form is going to continue to provide a uniform, simple way for people to register to vote.”
Benjamin Todd Jealous, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), in a statement said: “State government should encourage voting, not discourage it. We need to find innovative ways to make voting easier and more accessible for Americans, rather than coming up with new ways to suppress it.”