By Ian Millhiser
In an opinion by conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, a 7-2 Supreme Court held this morning that an Arizona law requiring voting officials to reject voter registration forms that are “not accompanied by concrete evidence of citizenship” conflicts with a federal law requiring states to use a uniform voter registration form for federal elections. Scalia once justified an anti-immigrant opinion with a reference to laws excluding “freed blacks” from southern states, and he called the Voting Rights Act a “perpetuation of racial entitlement. So his authorship of this opinion is both unexpected and a sign of the weakness of Arizona’s legal position in defending this law.
The Court’s opinion in this case, Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, also establishes an important doctrinal rule regarding the power of Congress to push back against state election laws. The Constitution permits duly enacted federal laws to trump state law, a process known as “preemption.” Normally, however, courts should apply a presumption against preemption and assume that Congress did not intend to invalidate state law if the matter is uncertain. Scalia’s opinion holds that this presumption does not apply with respect to federal laws regulating federal elections, a holding which suggests Congress’ power to sweep away state election laws is quite sweeping.
Read More Surprise! Justice Scalia Strikes Down Arizona Law Requiring Proof Of Citizenship To Register To Vote | ThinkProgress.