PHOENIX—An appeals court upheld a requirement in a 2004 Arizona law that voters show identification before they can cast ballots, saying that there wasn’t evidence that the mandate disproportionately affected Latinos as the challengers had alleged.
A 12-member panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said in a ruling Tuesday that there was evidence Arizona has racially polarized voting and a history of discrimination against Latinos, but concluded no proof was offered to show that the ID requirement gave Latinos fewer opportunities to vote.
The court, however, found that the federal National Voter Registration Act trumps another section of the Arizona law that requires people to prove their citizenship in order to vote.
That federal law allows voters to fill out a mail-in voter registration card and swear they are citizens under penalty of perjury, but it doesn’t require them to show proof as Arizona’s law does.
“Today’s ruling vindicates all the U.S. citizens who were improperly rejected for voter registration in Arizona,” Nina Perales, a lawyer for the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund who argued against the law in court, said in a written statement. “Arizona may no longer flaunt federal law in voter registration, particularly in a manner that discriminates against newly naturalized citizens.”
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, whose office defended the law in court, said he expects that the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately have to resolve the question of whether Arizona can require people to prove citizenship as a condition of voter registration. “The people of Arizona have a right to request that people registering to vote show some evidence they are citizens and we fully expect the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold that,” Mr. Horne said.
In 2004, Arizona voters approved Proposition 200, a law that denied some government benefits to illegal immigrants and required Arizonans to show identification before voting. The case before the appeals court challenged the law’s voting provision and not the benefit-related provisions.
Critics say the law’s voter identification requirement is an inconvenience and a barrier for minority voters, while supporters said the requirement serves as a safeguard for the election system by preventing noncitizens from casting ballots.