An Arizona ballot initiative aimed at keeping illegal immigrants from voting and receiving some government services passed easily.
Four counties voted it down: Pima, Santa Cruz, Coconino and Greenlee.
But Proposition 200, the Arizona Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act, may never become law.
It first must be reviewed by the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice because any new state law affecting voter rights must be scrutinized to make sure it conforms to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
State voters approved the measure 56-44 percent.
The act was passed to keep states from adopting laws that discourage minorities from voting.
“Anything to do with ballot access issues” must pass federal muster before it can become a state law, Eric Holland, public affairs specialist with the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., said Monday.
Because each situation is unique, he said, no one can say how long it will take for the Civil Rights Division to review the Arizona measure.
And before the new law can go to the Justice Department for review, the final general election vote must be certified by Arizona Secretary of State Jan Brewer.
Brewer has until Nov. 22 to certify the tallies from Arizona’s 15 counties.
Kathy McKee, chairwoman of Protect Arizona Now, the Phoenix group that led the statewide petition drive to get 200 on the ballot, said the measure is necessary to stem illegal immigration in Arizona and the cost of providing some public services to illegal immigrants.
Now that the votes are in, her organization will not disband.
“We’re going to hang in there to make sure it’s really over,” she said, referring to the prospect of legal challenges.
The measure was opposed by the Pima County Medical Society, the Pima County Board of Health and the Hospital Council of Southern Arizona, which feared the measure could affect public health and force health-care workers to serve as immigration police.
Jack Jewett, a former state legislator and an administrator at Tucson Medical Center, speaking for the hospital council, said before the balloting that he expects the measure to be challenged in court.
Chris Roads, Pima County’s registrar of voters, said no changes in how Pima County registers voters would be made until after the Justice Department’s review.
Changing the procedure for registering to vote—to require proof of U.S. citizenship—would have a major impact on Pima County, Roads said.
Roads said determining what would be “acceptable proof” could become an issue.
“Obviously we would have to be comfortable that a copy of proof of citizenship would be valid,” he said. “We’d have to create a whole bunch of procedures of how to deal with that. The cost of such a process is unknown.
“People can create fake photocopies all day long. The person handling (the registration) has to be sure it’s a legitimate document.”
He said proof-of-citizenship documents would have to be stored for several years and that the county does not have storage space to do that.
An effort to kill Proposition 200 failed last week when a Maricopa County Superior Court judge said early voting had begun and the challenge was filed too late.
Le Templar, East Valley Tribune (Phoenix), Nov. 2
Voters swept aside concerns that an initiative targeting illegal immigrants would cost too much and discriminate against legal Hispanic residents, easily approving the historic measure that will require tougher standards to vote and to obtain some public services. Proposition 200 succeeded despite a million-dollar campaign organized by powerful labor unions, business interests and clergy from several Christian denominations.
Supporters said the lopsided victory will shake Arizona’s political establishment—much of which opposed the measure—and could spread to other states also confronting the enormous fiscal and social costs of illegal immigration.
“When you get outspent 5 to 1 and you still win by double digits (in percentage), it shows what a gut-level issue this is with people,” said Randy Pullen, chairman of the Yes on 200 campaign committee.
But it will be months or even years before Arizona learns the full impact of Proposition 200 as lawsuits likely will be filed challenging the initiative’s controversial provisions.
“We’re going to take some time to catch our breath,” said Gretchen Hawkins of East Valley Interfaith, a partner in the opposition group. “It’s has been a long campaign.”
Proposition 200 requires proof of citizenship to register to vote, and photo identification or acceptable paper alternatives to cast a ballot in person. The initiative also requires state and local government officials to confirm legal residency before offering “public benefits” not mandated by federal law.
Those officials must report suspected illegal immigrants who apply for benefits to federal authorities, or they can be charged with a class 2 misdemeanor.
Several East Valley voters said Tuesday they supported the initiative to protect the integrity of the ballot box.
“I walked in here and they didn’t even ask for a driver’s license,” said Natalie Martinez of Chandler. “I could walk into 50 booths today if I wanted to and look down at the list and say ‘I’m Martinez, oh yeah, that’s me.’ “
Voters who opposed the measure said they fear it will cause anti-Hispanic sentiments.
“I’m really concerned about the racism implied by the issue and the concept that we must reject a whole group of people,” said the Rev. Liz Simmons, pastor at St. Stephens Episcopal Church in Scottsdale.
The issue attracted national interest, with most of the campaign money for proponents coming from strict immigration control groups while opponents were funded largely by labor unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO.
The initiative won’t go into effect until Secretary of State Jan Brewer canvasses election results on Nov. 22 and Gov. Janet Napolitano issues a proclamation. Napolitano was among those political leaders who had opposed Proposition 200.
The governor plans to comply with the state constitution’s requirement to proclaim ballot propositions “forthwith,” said Napolitano press secretary Jeanine L’Ecuyer. But L’Ecuyer said there could be a brief delay after Nov. 22 as state agencies continue to struggle to understand how the proposition should be carried out.
“Obviously, she’s not going to defy the wishes of the voters,” L’Ecuyer said. “One of the things we don’t want is a lot of different interpretations leading to a lot of different implementations. So yes, it might take a little of time to come up with that consistent interpretation and apply it statewide.”