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Court will hear Ariz. case on voter registration

Associated Press Modified: October 15, 2012 at 11:20 am •  Published: October 15, 2012
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to take up an appeal from Arizona over its requirement that people prove they are American citizens before registering to vote.

The justices will review a federal appeals court ruling that blocked the law in some instances.

A 10-member panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said that federal law trumps the Arizona requirement. Federal law allows voters to fill out a mail-in voter registration card and swear they are citizens under penalty of perjury, but it doesn't require them to show proof as Arizona's 2004 law does.

Four other states, Alabama, Georgia, Kansas and Tennessee, have similar requirements, according to a legal brief filed by Alabama in support of the Arizona law. The case poses some of the same issues as voter identification disputes. Arizona and the other states argue that they should be allowed to ask for additional documentation to keep illegal immigrants and other non-citizens off the voting rolls. Opponents of the laws say they are used to exclude disproportionately poor and minority voters who lack birth certificates and other identity documents.

Arguments will not take place until February, with a decision likely by late June. The justices earlier refused Arizona's request to reinstate the provision before the November elections.

The ruling applies only to people who seek to register using the federal mail-in form. Arizona has its own form and an online system to register when renewing a driver's license. The court ruling did not affect proof of citizenship requirements using the state forms.

Arizona officials have said most people use those methods and the state form is what county officials give people to use to register. But voting rights advocates had hoped the 9th Circuit decision would make the federal mail-in card more popular because it's more convenient than mailing in a state form with a photocopy of proof of citizenship.

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