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Requiring Proof of Citizenship to
Vote Isn't 'Voter Suppression'

Hans A. von Spakovsky
April 3, 2014
On March 20, 2014, the New York Times published a harsh editorial that unfairly condemned a Kansas federal judge for upholding the right of states to require proof of citizenship for individuals registering to vote.

As I explained last week, Judge Eric Melgren ordered the US Election Assistance Commission to change its state-specific instructions for the federal voter registration form to tell any residents of Arizona and Kansas using that form that they will have to comply with the states' requirement to provide proof that they are US citizens. The EAC had refused to do so, despite the fact that the Constitution clearly gives states, not the federal government, the ability to set voter qualifications for federal elections.

The Times repeated its constant claim that the purpose of this proof-of-citizenship requirement as well as voter-ID laws is "to keep eligible voters from the polls." No, the intent of these laws is to keep ineligible voters from the polls, like the thousands of noncitizens who are illegally registered to vote all over the country.

Arizona's law was cleared by the US Justice Department back in 2005 under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act when that provision was still in force because there was no evidence that it was discriminatory or would keep any eligible US citizens from being able to vote. When the usual civil-rights groups sued Arizona, they lost their claim that the proof-of-citizenship requirement was somehow discriminatory or would keep eligible individuals from voting. The only issue in that case that got to the US Supreme Court was a claim under the National Voter Registration Act.

And before the Times or anyone else can claim that the Arizona law was cleared by the Bush administration and its judgment can't be trusted, they should realize that Georgia has a law that is virtually identical to the laws in Kansas and Arizona. That law was also precleared by the Obama administration under Section 5 in 2011. Georgia had to sue the Justice Department to get preclearance of its law, but the lawsuit was dismissed after DOJ conceded in court that the law was not discriminatory and would not prevent eligible voters from voting. So the judgment of the New York Times' favorite Civil Rights Division in that case was that requiring proof-of-citizenship is not discriminatory.

The Times states that there is "more than enough evidence by now" to demonstrate that conservatives want to keep people from voting "under the guise of battling fraud and illegal immigration," and "they should see this ruse for what it is." To the contrary, there is more than enough evidence by now to demonstrate that the Times is totally wrong in its judgment on election-integrity issues.

We should all see its ruse of "racism" and "voter suppression" for what it is, a continuous attempt to ensure we do not improve the security of our election process since that might endanger the election prospects of candidates supported by the New York Times.

Hans von Spakovsky is an authority on a wide range of issues – including civil rights, civil justice, the First Amendment, immigration, the rule of law and government reform -- as a senior legal fellow in The Heritage Foundation's Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies.

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