On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that Arizona may not require documentary proof of citizenship from people seeking to vote in federal elections. (Read the court opinion.)

During oral argument in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Justice Sotomayor’s first question was about an amicus brief signed by Nonprofit VOTE and other community-based voter engagement groups. (See the transcript.) The brief urged the Court to strike down the portion of Arizona Proposition 200 that required proof of citizenship to accompany any voter registration application, even when applicants have attested to citizenship under oath.

While the National Voter Registration Act allows voters to check a box verifying that they are a U.S. citizen under penalty of perjury, Arizona’s law required prospective voters to prove they were citizens by submitting documentation–like a birth certificate, passport, or naturalization paper.

Thus the ruling was critical to many community-based registration efforts that overwhelmingly rely on approaching individuals who did not plan in advance to register at that time or location and who are therefore unlikely to be carrying a birth certificate, passport, or other documentation.

In addition to this week’s decision, the Supreme Court will soon be ruling on the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

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