Arizona voter citizen proof requirement overturned

SAN FRANCISCO Tue Oct 26, 2010 8:42pm EDT

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A federal appeals court on Tuesday struck down an Arizona requirement that residents prove U.S. citizenship in order to register to vote but upheld a mandate that they present identification before casting their ballots.

Opponents of the 6-year-old law incorporating both provisions -- designed to prevent illegal immigrants from voting -- said the ruling would likely lead to thousands being turned away at next Tuesday's elections for lacking the required identification records.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' invalidation of requirements for proof of citizenship comes too late for any prospective new voters who were barred from registering before the deadline for the November 2 U.S. mid-term elections.

The state denied registration of an estimated 30,000 Arizonans who failed to prove their citizenship during the first four years of the law, said John Greenbaum, legal director for the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, one of the groups challenging the statute.

His organization hailed Tuesday's decision to strike down the proof of citizenship requirement as "a great victory for voting rights advocates."

A joint statement by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and Secretary of State Ken Bennett, both Republicans, called the ruling "an outrage and a slap in the face to all Arizonans who care about the integrity of their elections."

Neither side said whether it would appeal further.

The 9th Circuit is slated to hear arguments next week in a legal challenge to a separate newly enacted Arizona law requiring state and local police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect is in the county illegally.

SPLIT DECISION

The Tuesday ruling stems from a ballot initiative, Proposition 200, Arizona voters passed in 2004 requiring individuals to produce proof of citizenship, such as a passport, to register to vote, and a picture ID, such as a driver's license, or two pieces of non-photo ID, in order to cast a ballot.

Proposition 200 opponents have argued the polling ID requirements discriminate against minorities and the poor, who might not have the money to obtain the necessary proof of identification.

The appeals court affirmed a lower-court ruling that upheld polling-place identification provisions, agreeing opponents failed to produce evidence supporting claims those requirements posed a discriminatory burden to Latinos.

But the 9th Circuit struck down the proof-of-citizenship mandate as being in conflict with a national voter registration law passed by Congress, which has paramount authority under the U.S. Constitution to regulate federal election procedures.

Just one other state, Georgia, has a citizenship documentation mandate similar enough to Arizona's law that it would be potentially vulnerable to a federal court challenge given the 9th Circuit decision, Greenbaum said.

Georgia checks its voter registration rolls against its motor vehicle database. Those whose vehicle records indicate they are not citizens are allowed to register to vote, but their ballot will be discounted unless they show proof of citizenship, he said. That system is still undergoing preliminary federal review before it can take full effect.

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was part of the three-judge panel that decided the Arizona appeal, joining the 9th Circuit as she has from time to time on select cases since leaving the high court. She concurred in the 2-1 majority in Tuesday's ruling.

Arizona has become the main gateway for human and drug smugglers entering the United States from neighboring Mexico, leading to passage of a number of recent statewide measures at stemming the flow of illegal immigration.

There are an estimated 10.8 million illegal immigrants in the United States, mostly from Latin America.

The case in the 9th Circuit is Gonzalez v. State of Arizona, 08-17094.

(Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Jerry Norton)

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Comments (4)
imo47 wrote:
This is such baloney. You have to present id to drive a car, to cash a check or to use a credit card. There is absolutely no justification for allowing people to vote without proving they are who they say they are. I have to sign in at my polling place. They take it on faith that I am who I say I am, and that I’m legally able to vote. Seems to me that it would be pretty easy to commit voter fraud. Especially since voter registration materials come with the DMV renewal and you never have to present yourself in person to register to vote.
I believe a picture ID ought to be a requirement. It’s not intimidation- it’s common sense in this age of electronic data.

Oct 26, 2010 9:34pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
gus9 wrote:
The legal profession, if you can call it that, has been trying to destroy this country since the States ratified the constitution. This decision is an outrage and the seeds that sow Civil War. How dare two judges open the voting gates to millions who are not citizens?

Oct 26, 2010 10:42pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This is ridiculous the law simply requires you to have a form of ID. The way the law is written if you register to vote at the address you collect mail at the recorders office sends you your voter registration card. With simply that mail envelope and voter ID card you have the minimum of 2 required (non-picture) IDs in order to vote. You can use your divers license or, you can go to the MVD and get an ID card with your address on it (5 or $10 I believe) and vote with that as you only need one ID if it is official picture ID with current address.

How is this discriminatory if all you need is a valid address to receive all the IDs you need to vote? I am an AZ resident and if you don’t believe how easy and accessible the forms of ID are here is the Pima county recorders office requirements list http://www.recorder.pima.gov/voter_faq_electionday.aspx#i

The only way you would not be able to receive the proper ID’s in seconds is if all these hold true
A. You don’t have any address to receive mail at,
B. You pay no utilities (electricity, gas, phone, cable, or ANY of the numerous other utilities),
C. You are not involved with ANY bank or credit union,
D. You are unable to unable to obtain a passport or even an ID card from the MVD,
E. You didn’t go to the recorders office in order to a “Recorder’s certificate”,
F. You don’t belong to any Indian Tribe,
G. You are unable to get any “valid federal, state or local government issued identification card”
IF all these held true for a person would you want them voting in an election

Oct 26, 2010 10:45pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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