Arizona Voter Citizen Proof Requirement Overturned

Dan Levine, Reuters, October 26, 2010

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 that incorporated both provisions–designed to prevent illegal immigrants from voting–said the ruling would likely lead to thousands of registered voters being turned away at next Tuesday’s elections for lacking the necessary identification documentation.

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The appeals court 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.

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But the 9th Circuit struck down the proof-of-citizenship requirements 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.

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was part of the three-judge panel that decided the 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.

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