Proof of Citizenship

The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution stipulates that the right to vote in federal elections for the Senate, House of Representatives and presidency is limited to U.S. citizens.

With few exceptions, most state constitutions explicitly authorize only resident citizens to vote in state and local elections.

Currently, there is no state or national database or system to verify the citizenship of voters. Many states utilize self-reported citizenship information from non-citizen residents, but some use the national Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements Program database at the Department of Homeland Security to assist in verifying citizenship status. Several states attempting to prevent non-citizen voting have enacted laws requiring proof of U.S. citizenship of registrants when registering to vote.

Our current honor system on the part of registrants under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 includes a provision that created a federal voter registration form that requires applicants under penalty of perjury to check a “yes” or “no” box as to whether they are U.S. citizens. However, the federal form does not require any proof of citizenship, and its use has been shown to be ineffective in deterring non-citizens from registering to vote.

This issue has been hotly contested in the courts with advocates for this sensible safeguard against fraudulent voter registration up against a solid flank of left-wing groups such as Common Cause, Project Vote, the League of Women Voters and the American Civil Liberties Union.

In April 2015, the ACRU filed an amicus brief in Kobach v. United States Election Assistance Commission at the U.S. Supreme Court that included evidence that non-citizens in Texas were registering to vote using the federal form. On June 29, 2015, the Supreme Court denied Kansas’s and Arizona’s writ of certiorari petition, thus letting stand a 10th Circuit ruling that the states may not require applicants using the federal voter registration form to show documents proving citizenship when registering to vote in federal races. 

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