By Wendy Underhill
Arizona and Kansas are teaming up to sue the federal government over voter registration requirements.
The issue is this: under the National Voting Rights Act of 1993, all states must accept voter registration applications that come via the National Voter Registration Form. At the very top of the form, above the first numbered question, it asks, “Are you a citizen of the United States of America?” Next to this question are two boxes, one for “yes” and one for “no”. There is no requirement that an applicant must provide proof, and yet laws in four states (Arizona, Alabama, Georgia and Kansas) do require proof.
Alabama and Georgia have not yet implemented their laws, and Arizona’s 2004 law was struck down in June by the U.S. Supreme Court, in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona.
The Kansas law went into force in January 2013. So far at least 15,000 Kansans, many of whom registered to vote while at the Division of Vehicles, are in voting limbo because they haven’t provided proof of citizenship. Local election administrators are reaching out to them to “cure” these cases.
The Arizona-Kansas suit announced this week asks a federal court to require the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to modify the federal form to indicate that proof of citizenship is required in their states, per state law.
From the federal side, making the change isn’t easy because the EAC has no sitting commissioners, and thus can’t enact policy changes. And why does it have no commissioners? Because none have been appointed by the President. Why not? Because the process starts with recommendations from the majority and minority leadership in the U.S. Senate and House, and no recommendations have been made in recent years.
The outcome of this new suit will be of interest to many state lawmakers, judging by the number of states (10) that had legislation introduced this year dealing with proof of citizenship for voters in one way or another.