Alabama says it plans to move ahead with a requirement for potential voters to show concrete proof of citizenship, in the first sign of a wider impact from a court decision on Wednesday ordering a federal elections agency to help Arizona and Kansas enforce their own such requirement.
Alabama is one of the four states that have adopted the extra layer of proof for people registering to vote. With such rules under a legal cloud, it held off on carrying them out. Now that may change….
Politics aside, the decision was a victory for the states in a turf battle over electoral rules. It is a legally murky area because the Constitution gives the federal government power over how elections are conducted for Congress and the presidency, but says the states can decide, within limits, who is eligible to vote.
“I think this decision shifts the balance of power from the federal government to the states on how to run federal elections,” said Richard L. Hasen, an expert on voting law at the University of California, Irvine. “This is one step in much larger battles, not only between Republicans and Democrats, but also between the federal government and the states.”
Many conservatives, citing rare reports of voter fraud, see the decision as a victory for common sense. They predict that more states will act to tighten registration procedures, complementing the more widespread recent drives to require picture identification at the time of voting and reduce early voting.
“The Kansas decision is going to encourage more states to pass these kinds of requirements,” said Hans A. von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research organization. He asserted that registration by noncitizens was a genuine problem, and that more stringent rules would not deter legitimate voters.