Supreme Court to Decide Arizona Voter ID Law

Judicial Watch attorney Jim Peterson and I recently visited the U.S. Supreme Court with former Arizona State Senate President Russell Pearce to attend oral arguments concerning a critical issue – the right of the state of Arizona to ensure that every vote cast in the state is legitimate.

Senator Pearce was the driving force behind Proposition 200 (the Arizona Taxpayer and Citizen Projection Act), which requires voters to offer proof of citizenship before casting a ballot. (As you may recall, Senator Pearce also crafted SB1070, Arizona’s tough illegal immigration enforcement law.)

I cannot believe we have allowed illegal immigration activists to bully public officials and the courts to the point where clean elections have become controversial. But here we are in the Supreme Court fighting over a basic American principle in a high-stakes case that will have ripple effects across the country.

How high are the stakes? As UPI put it last October, “an eventual Supreme Court decision will help shape the voting landscape of the future…”

The Guardian noted last week that as many as 16 states would be immediately impacted:

The Supreme Court was hearing oral arguments on Monday in a case which will decide whether US states can require voters to submit proof of citizenship to cast a ballot.

The case focuses on whether a voter-approved Arizona law known as Proposition 200, which requires voters to prove they are US citizens, violates federal law. Four other states, Alabama, Georgia, Kansas and Tennessee, have similar laws while 12 other states are contemplating such legislation, officials told The Associated Press.

The measure amended state laws to require voters to show proof of citizenship to register as well as ID at the polls. Defenders of the law, enacted in 2004 with 55% of the vote, say it is necessary to prevent people from fraudulently impersonating registered voters at the election booth.

Does the country have a problem with election fraud? You bet. Independent research published by the nonpartisan Pew Charitable Trust in February 2012 indicated that, at that time, approximately 24 million active voter registrations throughout the United States – or one out of every eight registrations – were either no longer valid or are significantly inaccurate.

The situation has gotten no better under the Obama administration which not only refuses to enforce provisions of the National Voter Registration Act (NRVA), which requires that states keep clean voter registration lists, but bends over backwards to attack states that try to impose any voter integrity measure.

Judicial Watch launched its Election Integrity campaign in 2012 to force states to clean up their voter registration lists and earned some key victories. Specifically relevant to this case, JW filed an amicus curiae brief on December 14, 2012, with the United States Supreme Court challenging the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit declaring that Arizona’s Prop 200 violated the NVRA. (Judicial Watch filed the amicus brief on behalf of Senator Pearce.)

Now let’s take a look at exactly what Prop 200 requires. According to the law, state election officials “shall reject any application for registration that is not accompanied by satisfactory evidence of United States citizenship.”

Such evidence can include a driver’s license, a photocopy of a birth certificate or passport, naturalization documents, or “other documents that are meant as proof that [may be] established pursuant to” federal immigration laws. On April 17, 2012, the Ninth Circuit ruled that voter registration provisions of Arizona’s Proposition 200 violated certain provisions of the NRVA. On October 15, 2012, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council, a challenge to Proposition 200.

With its amicus curiae brief Judicial Watch maintains that the Ninth Circuit erred when ruling that the NVRA “accept and use” provision prohibited states from requiring additional documentation:

The NVRA also does not provide that it is the exclusive authority on eligibility verification or that, as the Ninth Circuit contended, “Arizona’s only role was to make [the Federal] [F]orm available to applicants and to ‘accept and use’ it for the registration of voters.” [Emphasis added] The language of the statute not only does not prohibit additional documentation requirements, it permits states to “require . . . such identifying information . . . as is necessary to enable the appropriate State election official to assess the eligibility of the applicant . . .” Besides express authorization for a state to “develop and use” a form compliant with the statute’s criteria, the NVRA also provides that “each State shall establish procedures to register to vote in elections for Federal office . . .”

Judicial Watch further argues that, “The Ninth Circuit also failed to give any weight to the stated goal of the NVRA to ‘protect the integrity of the electoral process’ and ‘enhance the participation of eligible citizens as voters in elections for Federal office’ as guiding purposes of the statute. [Emphasis added] Under no sensible reading of the statute is the goal of election integrity advanced by allowing non-citizens to vote.”

As Senator Russell Pearce stated when we jointly filed our amicus brief, the rule of law must prevail: “The Ninth Circuit Court ruling ignores the rule of law, common sense and states’ rights. This court (Ninth Circuit) is apparently okay with illegal votes or non-citizens voting. This ruling absolutely flies in the face of common sense and ignores the will of the people of Arizona, who overwhelmingly passed Proposition 200 in 2004.”

We hope the Supreme Court sees the wisdom in these arguments. There is no coherent reason for refusing to allow states to check voter identification other than a desire to circumvent the law to let non-citizens determine the results of American elections. The people of Arizona, and every other state, have the right to protect the sanctity of the ballot box. I am cautiously optimistic, after attending listening to the oral argument, that the High Court will uphold Prop 200 and election integrity. 


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