The States of Texas can require “proof of citizenship” to apply for or renew your drivers license, but Arizona cannot ask for “proof of citizenship” to register to vote. Yes, I know it sounds as confusing at it is maddening. What else would you expect from this mixed up bunch of lawyers running the country. Furthermore, the US Supreme Court, yesterday ruled in favor of the challengers to the Arizona’ Proposition 200 voter I.D. law and found that the state had overstepped its authority by requiring “proof of citizenship” to register to vote in US elections.
The 1993 “National Voter Registration “Motor Voter” Act” established an honor system for federal voter registration tied to driver license applications and renewals. Federal law provides all applicants for Driver Licenses or renewals—in all states—must be offered a “mail -in” voter registration card. Proper I.D. is required, by law, to do business with all state driver licenses issuing authorities as a pre-requisite for receiving your voter registration card, but federal law does not require “proof of citizenship” to register to vote.
The US Constitution provides the federal government broad authority over states regarding election law.
Federal law allows anyone to register to vote by swearing to be a US citizen—simply checking a box on the federal registration form—under penalty of perjury. Yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling upheld that authority.
Unfortunately, perjury is a rarely prosecuted crime at the federal level.
Some states require “proof of citizenship” for D.L. applications and re-newels. Some states do not. In addition, some states (Utah for one) will take a Matricula card issued by the Mexican government as proper ID as they allow non-citizens to drive “conditionally” in their state.
Arizona taxpayers were burned by Arizona lawmakers who failed to perform their due diligence. Federal taxpayers picked up a lot of the cost since the Justice Department had a hand in assisting “The League of Woman voters of Arizona, the “Mexican American Legal Defense Fund” and Arizona Indian Tribes—all tax exempt organizations—in their challenge to Arizona’s “proof of citizenship” voter registration requirement.
Two weeks ago, a sixty something Vietnam veteran was required to show “proof of citizenship” to renew his 30 year old Texas driver license (which has required fingerprint ID for over a decade). He got it all straightened out by bringing his Social Security card, his passport and his DD-14. He also filled out his voter registration card and checked the box on the federal form swearing he was a US citizen eligible to vote. I rather wish I were there to see and hear that.
Arizona could have saved us all a great deal of money and valued Supreme Court Justice hearing and deliberation time if they had simply copied the laws on the books from any number of states that require “proof of citizenship” to be granted the privilege to drive and by law being offered a federal voter registration mail-in card like they do in Texas.
Texas requires “proof of citizenship” as identification in state driver’s license applications and re-newels. According to the Vietnam Veteran, I mentioned earlier Texas “proof of citizenship” requires a valid Social Security Card and a valid Passport.
Justice Scalia, who authored the majority opinion, with Justices Thomas and Alito dissenting, ruled that the states could not add additional voter registration requirements over current federal laws without permission of the federal government or courts. I cannot say for sure what the Arizona State Constitution or statutes allows for drivers license I.D. laws, but Justice Scalia provided its state’s Attorneys with the proper procedure to petition the Federal Election Assistance Commission for a change in Arizona’s voter registration identification standards. According to Scalia, if the commission denies Arizona’s request, the state can take the federal government back to a lower Federal Court to ask for relief.
Here is the rub.
Since 2011—the year the last two commissioners resigned—the Federal Election Assistance Commission (FEAC) has not been able to seat more commissioners. The President is responsible for FEAC commissioner nominations, which the Senate must confirm. Just like Federal Immigration Judgeships that remain vacant and awaiting Obama nominations.
Since there was a Democratic controlled House, Senate and President from 2008 through 2010 my gut tells me that Obama and his allies, then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, may have purposely avoided their obligation to staff this election law assistance program provided by the federal government. Now why would they do that?
Perhaps someone should be asking John Boehner and Mitch McConnell this question. After all what is more important election integrity or immigration reform?
I applaud Arizona’s efforts to control voter fraud. Now, could someone call Jan Brewer and tell her Texas already figured it out.