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Voter-ID action called victory for poor

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									Voter-ID action called victory for poor
Amanda J. Crawford and Mary Jo Pitzl
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 6, 2006 12:00 AM
A federal appeals court's decision Thursday to put controversial new voter-ID requirements on hold was hailed as a victory for the state's
poor, elderly, rural and minority voters.

Opponents of the requirements passed by voters in 2004 as part of Proposition 200 said they disenfranchised some citizens who may not
have the necessary identification or may not be able to afford to obtain it.

"The immediate effect is going to be very positive for lots of people, especially poor people," said Danny Ortega, a Phoenix attorney who
helped challenge Proposition 200 on behalf of the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund. "It will protect their right to vote. That's what this
is all about."

Attorney General Terry Goddard said the state immediately plans to appeal Thursday's order from a two-judge panel of the 9th U.S.Circuit
Court of Appeals. But if the injunction holds, it means Arizonans will no longer have to prove citizenship to register to vote or show
identification at the polls on Nov. 7. Monday is the deadline to register to vote in the November general election.


Confusion possible

Supporters of Proposition 200 and Secretary of State Jan Brewer were outraged by the court's action so close to the election. Brewer said
the decision could cause immense confusion among voters and poll workers, who were trained to enforce the new requirements.

"I'm very concerned and alarmed that the will of over 1 million people in Arizona is temporarily freezed," Brewer said, referring to voters who
approved Proposition 200 in 2004 by an 11 percent margin. "And the bottom line is that we had implemented it very successfully during the
September primary election without a hitch and without a hiccup."

Proposition 200, known as Protect Arizona Now, has faced legal challenges since it qualified for the 2004 ballot. The controversial measure
was sold to voters as a way to ensure that illegal immigrants cannot vote or receive public benefits.

The voting portion of the law, which was the only part addressed by Thursday's order, requires that Arizonans prove U.S. citizenship when
they register to vote and provide identification at the polls.

The first statewide test came with the September primary. Brewer said her office worked hard to educate voters and that the new provisions
were implemented smoothly. If voters could not produce the requisite ID, they were allowed to cast conditional provisional ballots. In order for
their votes to count, they would have to come back within three days with the right identification.

According to Brewer's office, 398 people in Maricopa County cast ballots that weren't counted because they didn't follow up with ID.

Opponents say that if one legal voter is disenfranchised it is too many. And they point out that other people who have the legal right to vote
might not have been able to register, may not have shown up at the polls because of the ID requirement or may not have cast provisional
ballots.

Ben Blustein, a Washington, D.C., attorney who challenged the law on behalf of a coalition including the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona and
the League of United Latin American Citizens of Arizona, said more than 20,000 applications to vote have been rejected by county recorders
since Proposition 200 passed.


Essentially poll tax?

"Proposition 200 violated voters' fundamental right to vote," Blustein said. He noted that among the legal arguments against the measure is
that it essentially imposed a poll tax: "The law was requiring people to go out and purchase a form of ID. {ellipsis} The 24th Amendment says
that you can't condition the right to vote on the ability to pay for it."

Similar voter-identification laws in Georgia and other states have been struck down as unconstitutional. But Thursday's order by the 9th
Circuit is only a temporary injunction. The court is expected to decide the merits of the Arizona case sometime after the Nov. 7 election.

State Rep. Russell Pearce, one of the key supporters of Proposition 200, called the injunction an insult to the voters who approved the voting
rules in 2004. Pearce, a Mesa Republican who has been a leading voice on immigration in the state Legislature, accused the courts of
ignoring the Constitution to impose a liberal agenda.

"When do the courts quit trampling on the rights of the people and realize we live in a democracy, not a juridocracy?" Pearce asked.

Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas called the ruling "almost an invitation to fraud."

While opponents of the requirements point out that there have been few if any examples of undocumented immigrants voting, Thomas says
his office is now prosecuting 10 cases where people who are here legally but aren't citizens have registered to vote. It is investigating more
than 100 similar cases.

"The people of Arizona have every right to pass a measure to ensure the integrity of the ballot box," he said.

In light of the court's ruling, some community groups said they will hit the pavement over the weekend to sign up voters who might have
otherwise been blocked from registering by Proposition 200's requirements.

Among them: Eva Steele, an elderly woman in an assisted-living center, who was one of the named plaintiffs. Linda Brown, executive
director of the Arizona Advocacy Network, said Steele is disabled and doesn't have the needed identification.

"We'll be out over this weekend to the extent we can, getting these people signed up to vote," Brown said.


What's next?


• State Attorney General Terry Goddard is appealing the temporary injunction to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals or the U.S. Supreme
Court.


• If the temporary injunction remains in effect, voters will not have to prove citizenship to register to vote for the Nov. 7 election or show ID at
the polls.


• The full 9th Circuit will decide whether Proposition 200's voting requirements violate the U.S. Constitution or federal law.


• The losing side in that decision can appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

								
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