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Tuesday, July 23, 2024 | Back issues
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9th Circuit Strikes Down|Arizona Voter Law

(CN) - The 9th Circuit on Tuesday struck down Arizona's requirement that registered voters show proof of citizenship before casting their ballots, saying the measure is "superseded" by federal voter registration requirements.

Arizona's Proposition 200, approved by voters in 2004, requires registered voters to prove their citizenship with documentation in order to vote at the polls.

A group of Hispanic and Native American voters challenged the requirement, claiming it unfairly impacts Latino and Native American voters by diluting those voter pools in violation of the National Voter Registration Act.

A 2-1 majority of the 9th Circuit ruled that the requirement is invalid because it directly conflicts with Congress' intent to streamline the voting process. Proposition 200 imposes additional identification requirements on top of those required by federal law. The National Voter Registration Act requires applicants to attest on the Federal Form, under penalty of perjury, that they meet every requirement.

"The value of the Federal Form would be lost, and Congress's goal to eliminate states' discriminatory or onerous registration requirements vitiated, if we were to agree with Arizona that states could add any requirements they saw fit to registration for federal elections through the Federal Form," Judge Sandra Ikuta wrote for the appellate panel in Tucson, Ariz.

The majority called Arizona's requirement an unnecessary "state hurdle" to registration.

In his dissenting opinion, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski cited a 2007 panel ruling that Proposition 200 isn't preempted by the National Voter Registration Act. The prior panel had concluded that the law's provisions "plainly allow states, at least to some extent, to require their citizens to present evidence of citizenship when registering to vote."

"The majority refuses to accept the consequences of this reality," Kozinksi wrote, referring to the earlier Arizona v. Gonzalez ruling. "That is the law of the circuit and therefore binding on us."

He added: "Because I believe that we must take precedent seriously and that Gonzalez I was correctly decided, I dissent from the majority's conclusion that the NVRA preempts Arizona's voter registration requirement."

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