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Ninth Circuit upholds Arizona voter ID law, strikes down proof of citizenship requirement

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] on Tuesday upheld [opinion, PDF] a portion of an Arizona voter registration law requiring voters to show identification at the polls, while striking down a provision that further required proof of citizenship to register to vote in federal elections. The court held that Arizona's 2004 Proposition 200 [amendment, PDF] was inconsistent with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) [materials], which was passed with the intent of increasing voter registration and removing barriers to registration imposed by the states. The NVRA requires voters to attest to the validity of the information on their registration form, including their citizenship, but does not require them to provide additional proof of citizenship. Proposition 200 went beyond the federal statute, requiring applicants to show proof of citizenship before registering to vote. Judge Sandra Ikuta delivered the court's en banc opinion, concluding that:

the Constitution's text requires us to safeguard the specific enumerated powers that are bestowed on the federal government. The authority granted to Congress under the Elections Clause to "make or alter" state law regulating procedures for federal elections is one such power. The Framers of the Constitution were clear that the states' authority to regulate federal elections extends only so far as Congress declines to intervene. ... Given the paramount authority delegated to Congress by the Elections Clause, we conclude that the NVRA supersedes Proposition 200's conflicting registration requirement for federal elections.
The court upheld the photo identification requirement on the grounds that a citizen's payment for such documents as required by Proposition 200 is related to the state's legitimate interest in assessing the eligibility and qualifications of voters, and so does not violate the Equal Protection Clause [Cornell LII backgrounder] of the Fourteenth Amendment.

In October 2010 a three-judge panel for the Ninth Circuit delivered a similar ruling [JURIST report] striking down the registration requirement under the NVRA, but the court agreed to rehear the case en banc. There are now 32 US states [NCSL backgrounder] that have passed legislation requiring voters to present some form of ID at the polls, but the issue remains controversial. Last week the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] filed a brief [JURIST report] in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official site] alleging that the recently passed Texas photo identification law will have a disproportionate impact on the state's Latino voters. In March a Wisconsin judge permanently enjoined [JURIST report] that state's voter ID law. In February the Virginia Senate approved a voter ID law [JURIST report]. Also that month South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson filed suit against the DOJ over its ruling that barred South Carolina [JURIST reports] from enforcing its voter ID law. In November Mississippi voters approved a ballot measure [JURIST report] to implement a voter ID law. In June Missouri Governor Jay Nixon [official website] vetoed [JURIST report] a law requiring persons to present photo ID at voting booth. Last March the Georgia Supreme Court [official website] upheld [JURIST report] a law requiring voters to present one of six government-issued photo IDs in order to vote.

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