U.S. Supreme Court

In arguments on Arizona voting law, Scalia sees 'no problemo' for state requirements

The U.S. Supreme Court appeared divided during oral arguments on Monday in a challenge to Arizona’s proof of citizenship requirement for voter registration.

Swing voter Anthony M. Kennedy asked questions sympathetic to both sides, the New York Times reports. The Los Angeles Times, the National Law Journal and the Washington Post also have coverage.

At issue is whether Arizona could add the citizenship requirement after Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act, known as the motor voter law. The federal law directed the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to create a federal voter registration form that could be submitted by mail. Would-be voters filling out the form are asked to swear they are U.S. citizens, but they are not required to show proof.

Justice Antonin Scalia suggested it would be fine for a state to ensure the integrity of its voting system when the federal form is lacking. “When the commission fails to do what enables the state to assess qualifications, the state will do it. No problemo.”

“So it’s under oath,” he said of the form. “Big deal. If you’re willing to violate the voting laws, I suppose you’re willing to violate the perjury laws.” Scalia continued the point later in the argument. “Under oath is not proof at all,” he said. “It’s just a statement.”

The lawyer for groups challenging the law, Patricia Millett of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, disagreed. “Statements under oath in a criminal case are proof beyond a reasonable doubt” leading to convictions and executions, she said.

The case is Arizona vs. Inter-Tribal Council.

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Retired Justice O’Connor played a role in Arizona case to be argued Monday”

ABAJournal.com: “Arizona’s Citizenship Requirement for Federal Voting to Be Reviewed by Supreme Court”

ABA Journal: “Justices will probe Arizona’s voter registration law”

Updated at 12:12 p.m. to explain role of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

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