It's a familiar story: Out of an exaggerated concern about potential election fraud, a state adopts procedures that have the effect of disenfranchising perfectly qualified voters. In this case, the state of Arizona is demanding that would-be voters provide proof of citizenship beyond what Congress has required. The Supreme Court, which heard arguments about Arizona's policy on Monday, should strike the requirement down.
In 1993, Congress enacted the National Voter Registration Act, popularly known as the "motor voter" law because, among other provisions, it allows citizens to register to vote when they apply for a driver's license. Congress was clear about its objective: "to establish procedures that will increase the number of eligible citizens who register to vote in elections for federal office."
Under the law, a citizen can register to vote by mailing to state election officials a form on which the applicant states, under penalty of perjury, that he or she is a U.S. citizen. The federal agency that prepares the form also tells prospective voters what information is required by particular states. Would-be voters in Arizona, for example, are informed that they must include the number of their driver's license or other state ID or, if they lack those documents, the last four digits of their Social Security number. But if the applicant doesn't have a state ID or a Social Security number, he or she