Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc. (2013)

  • February 3 2020



Whether the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 NVRA preempts voter registration requirements set by states.


Arizonans approved Proposition 200 in November of 2004. Proposition 200 requires individuals who want to vote in elections to provide proof of citizenship like showing a driver’s license both at the time of registration and at the time a ballot is cast. The reason for this proposition being passed was expressly to cut down on voter fraud in elections. In response, a plethora of individuals and organizations brought suit against Arizona, claiming that the proof of citizenship requirement violated the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, among others.   

CCJ filed an amicus curiae brief in support of Arizona


The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Arizona’s state law requirements conflicted with the National Voter Registration Act. According to the court below, the NVRA was within Congress' powers granted by Article I, section 4 of the Constitution to regulate the time, place, or manner for holding federal elections. The problem with this analysis is that neither the state law nor the Ninth Circuit's interpretation of the National Voter Registration Act concern the time, the place, or the manner of holding an election. Instead, the state law relates to qualification of electors, which is a matter that the Constitution assigns to state regulation.

Article I, section 2 expressly leaves qualification of electors to state law. Any state law defining voter qualification or establishing a means for determining that the voter meets the qualification is outside the purview of Congress except in the exceedingly narrow circumstance of the exercise of power under Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment or Section 2 of the Fifteenth Amendment. There can be no argument for a broad power of Congress under either of these provisions to strip states of the power to regulate qualifications, and proof of qualifications, to vote in state and federal elections. The later enacted Seventeenth Amendment continued to recognize the exclusive power of the states to set the qualifications of voters in federal elections. Thus, on the record presented in this case, Congress has no power to set qualifications of electors in state and federal elections nor does it have the power to strip the states of the ability to require proof of qualification to vote at either the time of registration or the time of voting.

Final Outcome

The Supreme Court did, in fact, decide to take this case. The Court handed down a 7-2 ruling written by Justice Scalia. The Court struck down Prop. 200, holding that the NVRA preempts other voter registration requirements set by the states. The reasoning the Court employed asserts that if states could impose additional requirements, then the states could reject applications for people who would otherwise meet the federal requirements. This ruling stands in opposition to CCJ position that voter registration is the domain of the states pursuant to the Constitution.