WASHINGTON — President Trump's newly created voter fraud commission has an obvious target in mind: the 3 million to 5 million non-citizens who Trump claims, without evidence, voted illegally in the 2016 elections.
But if the goal is to establish tighter proof of citizenship requirements for federal elections, the panel will have to recommend ways to circumvent a Supreme Court ruling from 2013, as well as a 2016 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.
The high court's 7-2 decision said states cannot add to mail-in federal voter registration requirements by demanding proof of citizenship. It struck down a 2004 initiative in Arizona that required physical proof when registering by mail, citing the 1993 "motor voter" law that was designed to simplify voter registration procedures. That law lets registrants simply assert citizenship, under penalty of perjury.
The federal law "forbids states to demand that an applicant submit additional information beyond that required by the federal form," Justice Antonin Scalia said in issuing his ruling. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented.
The 10th Circuit's unanimous ruling in October blocked Kansas from requiring additional proof of citizenship from people registering at motor vehicle bureaus. That decision applies to Kansas as well as Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming.
Only Arizona and Kansas require proof of citizenship before residents can register to vote, and the court rulings block that from happening at DMV offices and in mail registrations. About 30 states have more general voter identification requirements at the polls, designed to thwart impostors seeking to cast illegal ballots.