Restrictive Voter Registration Law Struck Down in Arizona

A notoriously restrictive voter registration law was struck down in Arizona today after the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit issued its long-awaited decision in Gonzales v. Arizona. And it was worth the wait.

By a 2-1 vote (the majority included retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor), the court struck down Arizona’s documentary proof of citizenship requirement for all new voter registrants because it is superseded by the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA). Project Vote is a plaintiff in this case.

This decision invalidates the hurdle to voter registration put in place by Arizona’s Proposition 200 in 2004. Proposition 200 amended the procedures for voter registration and for checking voters’ identification at polling places in both state and federal elections.

In reaching its decision, the Court found that the extra identification requirements mandated by Proposition 200 went against Congress’s intent in passing the NVRA.

“Congress enacted the NVRA to increase federal registration by streamlining the registration process and eliminating complicated state-imposed hurdles to registration, which it determined were driving down voter turnout rates. Proposition 200 imposes such a hurdle,” stated Judge Sandra S. Ikuta in her opinion, joined by Justice O’Connor. Chief Judge Alex Kozinski dissented.

“Today’s 9th Circuit ruling in Gonzales v. Arizona is a victory for Arizona voters, and Project Vote is proud to have been a plaintiff in the case” stated Nicole Kovite Zeitler, director of Project Vote’s Public Agency Voter Registration Program.

“The NVRA mandates that states ‘shall accept and use’ the federal voter registration form without additional documentation. Arizona cynically believed that anti-immigrant fervor justified its flouting established federal law and imposing its own proof of citizenship requirement, even though every applicant for voter registration must already swear he is a citizen under penalty of perjury,” she said.

“We are pleased that this distinguished court saw through the political passions to the core of federal voting rights law: that the strength of our democracy will only be fully realized when every eligible person is encouraged to register and to vote.”

Tags: voter registration, citizenship, Arizona, Project Vote, voter suppression (all tags)

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