Court: Voters still need to present proof of citizenship
BY HOWARD FISCHER,
CAPITOL MEDIA SERVICES
April 20, 2007 – 9:52PM
Arizonans are going to continue to have to present proof of citizenship to register to vote – at least for the time being.
Without dissent, a federal appellate court ruled Friday that a three-year-old requirement for Arizonans to produce identification to register to vote is not the same as an illegal “poll tax.''
The three-judge panel rejected arguments that people will have to spend money to obtain certain forms of ID to meet the legal mandate that they prove U.S. citizenship. That, attorneys argued, effectively made that a tax on voting, something the U.S. Supreme Court ruled illegal.
But Mary Schroeder, chief judge of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, said that isn't the case here.
“Voters do not have to choose between paying a poll tax and providing proof of citizenship when they register to vote,'' she wrote for the court.
“They only have to provide the proof of citizenship,'' Schroeder continued. “Nor does Arizona's new law make the affluence of the voter or payment of any fee an electoral standard.''
The judges also rejected other challenges to the ID requirement, including that it placed a disproportionate burden on naturalized citizens and that the mandate runs afoul of the National Voting Rights Act.
Friday's ruling does not end the legal dispute, as the appellate judges were being asked to bar the ID requirements while the lawsuit makes its way through a trial court in Phoenix.
“We think they got it wrong,'' said attorney Nina Perales of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. She conceded, though, the decision shows the appellate court is having a hard time accepting the arguments she and other foes of the identification requirement are presenting.
“The court is signaling that its current perspective on the law would not allow relief in this case,'' she said. But Perales said she believes that could change once the trial judge gets to hear directly from some of the people who have been directly affected by the law.
Proposition 200, approved by Arizona voters in 2004, denies certain public benefits to those not here legally.
It also requires proof of U.S. citizenship to register to vote as well as identification to cast a ballot. Several different groups have challenged these provisions, charging that they are discriminatory and violate federal law and constitutional requirements.
They also sought to block enforcement of the law while that case is making its way through the federal court system.
U.S. District Court Judge Roslyn Silver rejected the injunction.
The U.S. Supreme Court eventually sided with her, with the justices saying those going to the polls last year did, in fact, have to show ID.
Friday's ruling dealt with the other half of the law: identification requirements to register to vote in the first place.
Rules enacted in the wake of Proposition 200 list six specific types of identification that are proof of citizenship. These include copies of birth certificates, passports, naturalization documents, driver's license or tribal certificate; Indians also can present certain tribal ID numbers.
Opponents said it can cost people money to come up with these documents, making it an impermissible poll tax.
They also cited provisions of the National Voter Registration Act which prohibits states from requiring that registration forms be notarized or otherwise formally authenticated. But Schroeder said that law also allows states to require documentation of citizenship.
“These two provisions plainly allow states, at least to some extent, to require their citizens to present evidence of citizenship when registering to vote,'' the judge wrote.
Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence. – ALBERT EINSTEIN
The greatest sin of our time is not the few who have destroyed but the vast majority who've sat idly by. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.