On June 17, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled (7-2) in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona (ITCA), Inc., that the federal National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993 pre-empts an Arizona voter registration law requiring documents showing proof of citizenship.
“Today’s decision is a significant victory for U.S. citizens and their ability to register to vote without burdensome requirements. In our democracy, if you don’t vote, you don’t count, and the Arizona law was a blatant effort to keep some citizens from making their voice heard in our elections,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
The Court affirmed a lower-court decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which found that Arizona’s Proposition 200 conflicted with the NVRA and that the NVRA takes precedence over the state law. The decision was based on the elections clause of the U.S. Constitution, which gives Congress the power to regulate the “time, place, and manner” of federal elections.
Congress passed the NVRA in 1993 to make voter registration more accessible to all voters, particularly those who had suffered from discriminatory and unfair voter registration practices. The NVRA allows individuals to register to vote using a simple, uniform postcard application. The NVRA notably does not require documentary proof of citizenship but instead requires a voter’s signed affirmation of citizenship, which is given under penalty of perjury.
Lee Page, Associate Advocacy Director at Paralyzed Veterans of America said, "NVRA requires all state DMV offices and state agencies that serve the poor and people with disabilities to offer at intake voter registration services. This opened the door to millions of people including paralyzed veterans and others with disabilities who were disenfranchised due to in accessible and non-uniformed voter registration drives conducted in each state according to each local jurisdictions rules and by laws."
The case was filed on behalf of several individuals and organizations that represent a broad range of Arizona citizens and organizations whose voter registration activity had been improperly curtailed by Proposition 200.
Learn more about the work of Paralyzed Veterans of America on behalf of all people with disabilities