The Supreme Court issued one of its long-awaited rulings today. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images )

Supreme Court strikes down AZ law requiring proof of citizenship for registration

The Supreme Court voted to strike down a law requiring Arizona residents to provide documentation proving citizenship before registering to vote. In 2004, Arizona passed Proposition 200, which required that election officials reject voter registration applications which did not include proof of citizenship.  Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the majority, and the two dissenting Justices were Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.  The majority ruled that Arizona’s law went further than federal voting forms.

Arizona Democratic Congressman Ed Pastor argued recently in an op-ed that the Supreme Court should strike the law down.  “In the first two years after my state added this requirement, more than 30,000 applicants saw their voter registration forms rejected for failure to include the extra documentation.”  Pastor added “no matter what proponents say, laws like Arizona’s make it incredibly difficult for ordinary citizens, especially members of the military and others who move frequently, to register and vote.”

But arguing for the state before the Supreme Court, Arizona lawyer Thomas Horne told the Justices that Arizona was within its rights to ask for additional information beyond the simple federal form.

Latino civil rights groups such as the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) filed suit against Arizona’s proof of citizenship law.

“Since its implementation, over 31,500 applicants have been rejected for failing to provide the additional paperwork required,” argued MALDEF. “In Arizona’s largest county, voter registration through community-based drives dropped 44%. Individuals whose registrations were rejected under Proposition 200 reflect the general demographics of Arizona and include people of all races, ages and political affiliations.”

The Supreme Court did not issue its decision today on another important case; the one involving Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which states such as Texas are closely following. Still, says Texas State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer, chairman of the state’s Mexican American Legislative Caucus,  “any day is a good day when you protect voting rights — the decision today says there has to be national voting standards, since voters in Arizona are as important as voters anywhere else around the country.”

NBC News’ Pete Williams and Erin McClam contributed to this story.

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