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Louisiana Repeals 142-year-old Election Law

FILE - A man steps out of a voting booth after marking his ballot at a polling site for the New Hampshire primary in Nashua, New Hampshire, Feb. 9, 2016.

Two U.S. civil rights groups have dropped their lawsuit against the state of Louisiana after it repealed a law requiring naturalized citizens to show proof of citizenship when they registered to vote.

The law had been on the books since 1874. The Southern Poverty Law Center and Fair Elections Legal Network were suing the state to block its continued enforcement.

They say the law was unconstitutional and would prevent many citizens from voting in November if it had remained in force. They argued it violated the "equal protection" clause of the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment, which says that the laws of a state must be applied equally to all citizens.

A provision repealing the Louisiana law was put inside a broader election bill that the governor signed last Friday.

Under the law, anyone born outside the U.S. is required to show proof of citizenship when they register to vote, such as naturalization papers and passports. Native-born Americans were only asked to swear they are citizens.

"Louisiana's state election officials and legislators realized that this 142-year-old discriminatory requirement was legally and morally indefensible," FELN lawyer Jon Sherman said Wednesday. "We applaud their commonsense decision to repeal it."

Louisiana's Secretary of State Tom Schedler is also glad the old law has been repealed. He said the lawsuit against the state was needless and would have wasted taxpayer money.

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