Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Ariz.

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Preemption
  • Date Filed: June 17, 2013
  • Case #: 12-71
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Scalia, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined, and in which Kennedy, J., joined in part. Kennedy, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment. Thomas, J., and Alito, J., filed dissenting opinions.
  • Full Text Opinion

"Evidence-of-citizenship requirements, as applied to federal applicants, is preempted by the National Voter Registration Act’s mandate that States “accept and use” the Federal Form."

The National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) mandates that states “accept and use” a uniform federal voter registration form. As proof of citizenship, the
form requires a signature that the registree attests under penalty of perjury that they are a citizen. However, Petitioner’s state law requires voter-registration officials to reject all applications submitted without proof of citizenship, including the federal form, that are not accompanied by documentary evidence of citizenship.

Respondent brought suit to enjoin Petitioner from enforcing their mandatory rejection policy with respect to the federal registration form. The District
Court granted summary judgment in favor of Petitioner. The Ninth Circuit reversed, notably stating that Petitioner’s law “conflicts with the NVRA’s text,
structure, and purpose.”

The Supreme Court affirmed the Ninth Circuit upon textualist grounds. “Accept and use” has two possible meanings, “receive willingly” and make use in some
fashion or “accept as sufficient.” Upon studying the surrounding provisions of the NVRA, the Court held the proper definition was "accept as sufficient." In response to
Petitioner’s argument that superseding its proof of citizenship requirement reaches beyond the Constitution’s grant of authority to determine the “time,
place, and manner of elections,” the Court finds that Petitioner’s ability to request a change to the federal form, and to judicially appeal a denial, avoids
the possible unconstitutionality of the NVRA.

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