Ninth Circuit Rules Against Proving Citizenship, but For Voter ID


Setting the stage on a national level for this year’s elections, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on April 17 ruled that part of voter registration provisions of Arizona’s Proposition 200 violate the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) according to according to a press release by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights.

The ruling states voters are required to show identification before voting but do not have to prove U.S. citizenship to register according to USA Today.

The case, Inter Tribal Council of Arizona v. State of Arizona, stems from a 2006 lawsuit brought on behalf of the Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona, State Senator Steve Gallardo, the Arizona Advocacy Network, the League of United Latin American Citizens of Arizona, the Hopi Tribe, and the League of Women Voters of Arizona, by attorneys from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the ACLU Voting Rights Project, and the law firms of Osborne Maledon, Steptoe & Johnson and the Sparks Law Firm.

The release states the Ninth Circuit decision “blocks an unnecessary and burdensome requirement for voter registration that could prevent eligible citizens from exercising their fundamental right to vote.”

The court ruled the NVRA-mandated mail-in federal voter registration form can not be denied by Arizona election officials, even if U.S. citizenship documents required by Proposition 200 are not provided. However, the court voted to keep another aspect of the provision that requires voters to use photo identification before casting their ballots.

“We are elated that a strong majority of the en banc panel found Arizona’s citizenship requirement violated the NVRA,” Jon Greenbaum, chief counsel for the Lawyers’ Committee, who argued the case before the court said in the release. “This will enable our clients to be able to register to vote and conduct voter registration drives more easily.”

“The court was correct in ruling that federal law does not require residents to produce unnecessary documents proving their citizenship in order to register to vote,” Laughlin McDonald, director of the ACLU Voting Rights Project said in the release. “This is an important victory at a time many states are making it harder for people to exercise their fundamental right to vote, which is the backbone of our democracy. We hope this decision sends a message to other states that we should not be making it harder for people to participate in our political process.”

According to USA Today, the plaintiffs argued that due to state charges for photo identification, it was essentially a “poll tax” in turn discriminating against poor people. The court however disagreed and rejected the argument.

The next available step for the plaintiffs would be an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.