Traverse City Record-Eagle

Other Views

June 29, 2013

Another View: Voter registration system is working

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a strong 7-2 majority decision written by conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, rightly ruled ... that states cannot further burden voters by requiring that they produce proof of citizenship on top of federal law that already requires them to show citizenship when they register to vote.

The decision vindicates Gov. Rick Snyder’s veto of similar state legislation last year that would have confused the Michigan ballot by requiring voters to check a box affirming their citizenship.

The decision, however, does not void the state’s Voter ID law, which sensibly asks that voters produce a driver’s license when voting.

The Supreme Court case was brought by Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund and Indian tribes against Arizona’s Proposition 200, passed in 2004.

Federal law “precludes Arizona from requiring a federal form applicant to submit information beyond that required by the form itself,” wrote Scalia. The decision effectively upheld a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that federal law trumps state law.

Opponents of Arizona’s law argue that such measures discriminate against minorities. Justice Clarence Thomas argued that states have broad latitude “to determine the qualifications of voters in federal elections.”

His opinion is shared by Michigan Congresswoman and former Michigan Secretary of State Candice Miller, R-Port Huron, who called the Supreme Court’s decision “bureaucratic government overreach” that prohibits states from enacting “the procedures its election officials believe are necessary to preserve the accuracy of their election results.”

We are certainly sympathetic to Washington excess. But in our view, the bureaucratic overreach here is by state governments adding layer upon layer of requirements for citizens to carry out that most fundamental of freedoms, the right to vote.

“Today’s decision sends a strong message that states cannot block their citizens from registering to vote by superimposing burdensome paperwork requirements on top of federal law,” said Nina Perales, lead counsel for the voters who challenged the Arizona law.

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