By USA Today
In recent years, too many states seem to have been more interested in imposing voter ID requirements than in making sure eligible voters weren’t disenfranchised by them. The same may apply to citizenship tests.
After Arizona voted in 2004 to require voters prove their citizenship, more than 30,000 people were turned away because they didn’t have proper documents.
Some of those people might have been ineligible to vote, but all of them? Backers of strict voter requirements like to say that even one fraudulent vote undermines the legitimacy of the system. Fair enough. But the reverse is also true: Even one eligible voter unfairly kept from voting denies that person the most important right.
On Monday, the Supreme Court honored the second imperative. But the victory could be short-lived.
The justices virtually invited Arizona and other states to come back to the courts and ask again.
Our concern with this is the same as it has been when states impose tough photo ID requirements for voters, which about 30 states now do: The requirement should not be a backdoor way to suppress voting by the sort of people who typically don’t have documents that most of us take for granted, such as a driver’s license.
Hard as it is for most Americans to imagine, many citizens lack ready proof that they’re legal.
We have long supported the recommendation of a bipartisan panel, headed by former Democratic President Jimmy Carter and former Republican Secretary of State James Baker, that backed uniform photo ID for voters. But the panel also said that voter ID requirements should be phased in slowly, and that states should take great care eligible voters could get free IDs. The same sorts of safeguards should apply to citizenship tests.