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Top court overturns Arizona voter law

Verdict quashing proof-of-citizenship requirement may affect the way future elections are conducted in all 50 US states.
Last modified: 18 Jun 2013 03:21

The US Supreme Court has handed down a landmark ruling expected to have a big impact on voting in the US.

The court ruled on Monday that the state of Arizona can no longer demand immigrants provide physical proof they are citizens in order to vote.

The ruling could affect the way future elections are conducted in all 50 US states.

Citizenship is a requirement for voting in US federal elections. Voters must answer, under penalty of perjury, whether they are a citizen by checking a box "yes" or "no".

The Supreme Court says that's ample proof of citizenship and knocked down an Arizona requirement for people to show documentation.

"These onerous proof of citizenship requirements didn't just affect immigrant groups but it affected elderly folks and folks without birth certificates," said Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Voting Rights Project.

"It hurt people who were impoverished and couldn't afford a birth certificate and made the choice of voting or feeding their family. That's the choice the state of Arizona forced people to make."

That choice led to thousands of voters being rejected unfairly according to Latino civil rights advocates who are celebrating Arizona’s law being overturned.

'Pretty clear message'

I met up with Matthew McClellan, a Latino civil rights advocate, to learn more.

He told me the Supreme Court ruling "sends a pretty clear message nationally, especially with such a broad ruling, that peoples voting rights can't be infringed upon. This is a fundamental American right to have access to register to vote.

"As long as you're eligible and follow the national guidelines, you should have access to voting."

It's not the first time the southwestern state has had its immigration laws challenged.

Last year the US Supreme court also struck down an Arizona law intended to rein in illegal immigration.

The court did, however, uphold the state's practice of allowing police to check for immigration status, during routine traffic stops.

Arizona argued, though, that its voting law was not discriminatory and was simply intended to cut down on voter fraud.

It was backed by the US states of Alabama, Georgia and Kansas, with similar legislation.

Still, those opposed to the Arizona law say it was nothing more than a voter suppression tactic, and are viewing the Supreme Court ruling as a victory.