June 17, 2013 — Today, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) applauds the U.S. Supreme Court for striking down Arizona’s Proposition 200, the state’s restrictive new voter registration law, in a 7-2 decision in Arizona v. ITCA. Earlier this year, AALDEF filed an amicus brief on behalf of 12 other Asian American organizations urging the Supreme Court to strike down Prop 200 for unfairly burdening naturalized citizens, who make up almost 40% of the state’s Asian American population.
“Today’s decision is a victory for voting rights,” said Margaret Fung, executive director of AALDEF. “This decision affirms that all eligible citizens, either naturalized or native-born, must have full and equal access to the electoral process.”
In its decision today, the Supreme Court held that Congress has the power to pre-empt inconsistent state laws with regards to federal elections, thereby striking down Arizona’s Prop 200 law by finding that it violated the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). The NVRA established a national form for voter registration, with a clear provision that no additional requirements may be imposed by the states. In our brief, AALDEF made the case that Arizona’s Prop 200 imposed additional registration requirements on the national form, in a clear violation of the NVRA. The federal voter registration form is particularly beneficial to Asian Americans because it is translated into Asian languages. In states that do not translate their state voter registration forms, voters may use the federal form, which is translated into Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Tagalog.
Moreover, Prop 200 violated the purpose of the NVRA by imposing unequal burdens on foreign-born, naturalized U.S. citizens who are registering to vote. These additional requirements disproportionately affected Asian Americans in Arizona, because a high percentage of them (almost 40%) are naturalized citizens, compared to only about 5% of white non-Latino citizens.
The decision casts doubt on the efforts of other states, namely Alabama, Kansas, Tennessee, and Georgia, that may disenfranchise voters by requiring them to present documentary proof of U.S. citizenship. At least twelve other states are considering similar laws.
“The Supreme Court acknowledged the importance of Congress and the NVRA to promote voter registration and to eliminate state-imposed voting requirements which may, like Arizona’s Prop 200, disproportionately harm voter participation by various groups including racial minorities,” said Glenn Magpantay, Director of AALDEF’s Democracy Program.
Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP served as pro bono counsel in the amicus brief.
Read the Supreme Court decision in Arizona v. ITCA >
For more information, see AALDEF’s fact sheet on proof of citizenship laws >
The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), founded in 1974, is a national organization that protects and promotes the civil rights of Asian Americans. By combining litigation, advocacy, education, and organizing, AALDEF works with Asian American communities across the country to secure human rights for all.
The following Asian American organizations signed on to AALDEF’s amicus brief in Arizona v. ITCA:
Alliance of South Asian American Labor
Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote – Michigan
Center for Pan Asian Community Services, Inc.
Chhaya Community Development Corporation
Chinese Community Federation of Atlanta
Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans of Virginia
Korean American Civic Empowerment
Korean Americans for Political Advancement
MinKwon Center for Community Action
Organization of Chinese Americans – Georgia
Organization of Chinese Americans – Greater Houston
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