The NCSL Blog


By Wendy Underhill

A new episode has just emerged in the long-running serial about whether a voter can be required to prove citizenship.

Voting rights advocates are appealing a court order that directs the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to help Kansas and Arizona enforce laws requiring a person registering to vote to show proof of citizenship. For the history of this story, see NCSL’s elections newsletter, The Canvass, or read this NCSL blog post.

Looking ahead, politicos and journalists are asking if this ruling will prompt other states to adopt proof-of-citizenship laws as well? Proof can be a birth certificate, passport, naturalization papers or other documents.

Arizona and Kansas are the only states that have implemented proof of citizenship requirements for people registering to vote. Georgia, which in 2009 became the second state to enact such a law, could become the third state to implement proof of citizenship requirements. Before Georgia “goes live,” certain administrative tasks, such as computer programming and poll worker training, must be completed.

Alabama, which included proof of citizenship in a 2011 immigration bill, is likely to proceed with implementation as well.   

This year, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Utah have Republican-sponsored legislation to create proof-of-citizenship requirements. After the judge’s order, South Carolina Senator Chip Campsen told The New York Times the decision “potentially breathes new life to the issue in South Carolina.”

Since every issue has two sides, it may not be a surprise that Democrats in Arizona and Kansas have sponsored legislation to undo their state’s requirements.

Wendy Underhill covers election policy for NCSL.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.