U.S. appeals court rules Arizona can require ID at voting sites
Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. [Tim Hacker/ Tribune]
Posted: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 10:59 am
By Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
Arizona is entitled to demand that people present identification before being allowed to cast a ballot, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today.
In a split decision, the judges rejected arguments that mandating would-be voters show a driver's license or other identification unfairly discriminates against Latino voters. Judge Sandra Ikuta, writing for the majority, said while challengers made that claim they failed to present any credible evidence.
The court also brushed aside arguments that the requirement to provide identification, approved by voters in 2004, amounts to a poll tax.
But the judges said the state cannot strictly enforce another provision in that 2004 initiative which requires anyone who wants to register to vote to first provide acceptable proof of citizenship.
Ikuta pointed out that Congress mandated creation of a specific form designed to allow individuals to register to vote by mail. That form does not include a proof-of-citizenship requirement.
What that means, the judge said, is Arizona election officials have to register those people who sign up using that form, even if they do not provide the state-mandated identification. And Ikuta said the state cannot get around that by simply creating its own version of the federal form.
Today's decision allowing officials to mandate ID at the polls was not unanimous.
Judge Harry Pregerson recited what he said is a long history of state-sanctioned discrimination against Latinos. He said this could be seen as just another form.
"History has also shown that when a Latino voter approaches the polling place but is stopped by a person perceived to be an authority figure checking for identification, there's something intimidating about that experience that evokes fear of discrimination,'' Pregerson wrote. "That intimidation has the effect of keeping Latino voters away from the polls.''