You and I must produce our birth certificates in order to get a driver’s license. You and I must produce proof of U.S. citizenship when we apply for a passport. But proof of U.S. citizenship is not required to vote!
That’s right. You read correctly.
A federal appeals court — the infamous Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco — said in a 2-1 ruling that a state can’t require people to submit proof of citizenship when they register to vote.
In so doing, the court overturned a key provision of a 2004 Arizona initiative. Arizona’s Proposition 200, which took effect in 2005, required first-time registrants to provide evidence of U.S. citizenship, such as a birth certificate, passport or driver’s license number that could be checked against a state registry.
Bob Egelko of the San Francisco Chronicle reports on October 27, 2010, on the court’s reasoning for its ruling, which is that:
- Federal law already requires voters to swear that they are U.S. citizens and meet age and residency criteria.
- That law is a 1993 national law that was intended “to reduce state-imposed obstacles to federal registration.”
- Therefore, a state can’t impose additional rules.
At the same time as the 9th Circuit Court ruled that states cannot require proof of citizenship from voters, it also unanimously upheld another section of the Arizona law that requires voters to show poll workers proof of their identity. The judges cited a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing Indiana to require photo identification at the polls.
In other words, non-citizens can vote without fearing they’d be prosecuted, so long as they produce a photo ID proving they are who they say they are!
The Arizona attorney general’s office said it would ask the full appeals court for a rehearing. The Washington Legal Foundation, which submitted arguments on behalf of the sponsors of the Arizona initiative, criticized the ruling. “This decision deprives Arizonans of the ability to ensure that those seeking to vote in federal elections are actually citizens,” said the foundation’s lawyer, Richard Samp.
Another 9th Circuit panel is scheduled to hear arguments Monday in San Francisco on an Arizona law that allows police to demand proof of legal residency from individuals they suspect of being illegal immigrants. A federal judge ruled in July, in a suit by the Obama administration, that the state law would interfere with federal regulation of immigration.
H/t beloved fellows May & Tina.