Arizona looses 9th Circuit court voter identification requirement

With the midterm elections just days away, the 9th Circuit court ruled against Arizona and took away the state’s ability to request proof of citizenship identification when residents are registering to vote. The state wanted to curtail voter fraud and ensure residents who were voting for state and federal elections were legally doing so.

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stuck down a simple voter protection requirement of identification that won approval from Arizona residents in the form of Proposition 200.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said it was a “slap in the face” to all Arizonians who care deeply about the integrity of their election process.

“Arizona voters approved this critical election-security requirement in 2004. We have been vigorously defending its constitutionality and the will of Arizona voters,” Brewer said. “This law has previously been upheld at every level and by every court, including the 9th Circuit, despite numerous lawsuits and challenges filed by activist groups.”

The Governor as well as Secretary of State, Ken Bennett agreed that the Court’s ruling would not impact Tuesday’s midterm, but could be a factor during the 2012 election cycle.

The ruling draws into focus the state’s famous SB1070 immigration bill that is set to be heard by the 9th Circuit Court the day before the midterm elections on November 1st.

Like SB1070, the will of Arizona’s voters will be tested again and Arizona’s leaders promise to take both pieces of legislation to the Supreme Court if necessary.

“This simply cannot be tolerated,” Brewer said in a statement. “Arizona voters have made their will crystal clear- non-citizens do not have the right to vote. We will continue to pursue any and all legal remedies to prevent fraudulent voter registration in the State of Arizona, as well as the right of our state citizens to craft appropriate protections.”

The State of Arizona currently has a separate state registration form that requests information like a driver’s license or passport number. The change stemmed from Proposition 200 that was approved by Arizona voters in 2004 and essentially requires applicants to provide proof of citizenship when they register to vote.

The Ninth Circuit ruling on proof of citizenship decision came from a three-judge panel that vote 2-1 against Arizona’s right to inquire about citizenship. The three judges, that included former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, ruled the federal and state laws conflicted and federal law requires all states to make voter registration widely available and remove as many obstacles as possible.

The Arizona Attorney General’s office said they plan to petition the court for a rehearing with a larger panel of 9th Circuit Court judges, according to Mika Marquart of the AG’s office.

The liberal Latino rights group MALDEF who challenged Proposition 200 said it made people “jump through hoops” to become voters and would affect minority voters, said Nina Perales, MALDEF national senior counsel and lead counsel on the case.

MALDEF claimed the new “proof of citizenship” law affects newly naturalized U.S. citizens whose voter registrations are rejected because they received their driver’s licenses while they were green-card holders and their citizenship status hasn’t caught up with the state identification system Perales explained.

According to their website MALDEF is the nation’s leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the “law firm of the Latino community,” MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access. MALDEF is also fighting against Arizona’s SB1070 immigration law.

As the 2010 midterm election cycle unfolds and recounts begin to take place, Arizona’s election registrars will have to deal with voter fraud the way every other state in the union – ballot by ballot.

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