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U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down Arizona Voter Registration Law

Immigrants put their hands to their hearts as the national anthem is played during a special naturalization ceremony at the Department of Justice in Washington May 28, 2013.

Immigrants put their hands to their hearts as the national anthem is played during a special naturalization ceremony at the Department of Justice in Washington May 28, 2013.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday struck down an Arizona state law that requires people registering to vote in federal elections to show proof of citizenship.

In a 7-2 vote, the court said the voter registration provision of the 2004 state law, known as Proposition 200, was trumped by a federal law, the 1993 National Voter Registration Act.

The federal law requires prospective voters to provide one of several possible forms of identification, such as a driver's license or a passport, but no proof of citizenship is needed. Would-be voters simply sign a statement saying they are citizens.

In the majority opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia said the state law was preempted by language in the federal statute saying that states must "accept and use" a federal registration form.

The state law ordered officials to reject the form if there was no accompanying proof of citizenship.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito were the two dissenters.

The case began when Arizona residents, civil rights groups and Indian tribes sued to challenge the state measure, which they said discriminated against otherwise eligible voters - among them members of more than a score of Native American tribes across the rugged desert state, some of whom struggle to meet additional requirements.

Arizona, which shares a border with Mexico, has a reputation for passing tough anti-immigration laws that have brought it into conflict with the Obama administration.

The Arizona voter registration measure is one of many nationwide championed by Republicans and put in place at the state level. Democrats say the measures are intended to make it more difficult for certain voters who tend to vote Democratic to cast ballots.

The case is Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12-71.