Daily Archives: June 19, 2013

No citizenship proof for voters

The Supreme Court decided Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, where the Supreme Court ruled that federal law preempted Arizona’s law.  In other words, it held that Arizona’s requirement of proof of citizenship was in conflict with the National Voter Registration Act.  Thereby, that requirement was rejected.

Arizona’s law required registered voters to show proof of citizenship.  Under Arizona’s law, a person must be a citizen to be eligible to vote.  This case concerned only how Arizona was trying to enforce that qualification.  In 2004, Arizona voters passed Proposition 200, which provided that voters must “present proof of citizenship when they register to vote and to present identification when they vote on election day.”  If an individual does not provide “satisfactory” proof of citizenship, then the application must be rejected.

The issue here is how this citizenship-proof law and the National Voting Registration Act work together.  The Voter Registration Act required that states must “accept and use” the Federal Form.  The Voter Registration Act provided that a state shall “ensure that any eligible applicant is registered to vote in an election… if the valid voter registration form of the applicant is post-marked.” (italics in original).

Although the Voter Registration Act provides that states can create their own state-specific voter-registration forms, the Voting Registration Act also places a backstop.  The Supreme Court explained that,

No matter what procedural hurdles a State’s own form imposes, the Federal Form guarantees that a simple means of registering to vote in federal elections will be available.

Based on this language, the Supreme Court rejected Arizona’s arguments.  If Arizona, or any other state, could demand Federal Form applicants additional pieces of information, “the Federal Form ceases to perform any meaningful function, and would be a feeble means of ‘increas[ing] the number of eligible citizens who register to vote in elections for Federal Office.” (quotations and marks in original).

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Silence can be used against defendant

In Salinas v. Texas, No. 12-246, 2013 BL 158572 (2013), the Supreme Court that a defendant who didn’t expressly invoke his 5th Amendment privilege against self-incrimination before an arrest can have his silence used against him in court.

In this case, defendant Salinas voluntarily went to the police station.  Here, Salinas answered questions until he was asked whether the shell casings found at the murder scene matched his shotgun.  This silence was used against him in court.  Salinas was then convicted of the crime.

The Supreme Court held that there was no violation of the right against self-incrimination.  The Supreme Court stated,

 Petitioner’s Fifth Amendment claim fails because he did not expressly invoke the privilege against self-incrimination in response to the officer’s question.

The Supreme Court explained that a defendant does not invoke the privilege by remaining silent.

The Supreme Court raised an interesting question: what happens if the defendant had invoke the 5th amendment?  Justice Alito explained that the court did not have to decide on what the result would be if the defendant had indeed asserted his privilege.

Justice Thomas, however, in a concurring opinion, stated that even if Sallinas had invoked the privilege, the silence could still be used in court.

Justice Thomas explained:

A defendant is not ‘compelled . . . to be a witness against himself’ simply because a jury has been told that it may draw an adverse inference from his silence.


via SCOTUS: Silence can be used against defendant who didn’t claim privilege in voluntary meeting – ABA Journal.

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