MALDEF WINS NINTH CIRCUIT DECISION UPHOLDING ABILITY OF U.S. CITIZENS IN ARIZONA TO REGISTER TO VOTE
En banc court rejects Arizona's attempt to force new citizens to register twice and all citizens to show extra paperwork
San Antonio, TX – Today, MALDEF welcomed the Ninth Circuit's en banc ruling in Gonzalez v. State of Arizona, striking down critical provisions of an Arizona law that restricted voter access. MALDEF had challenged the 2004 law, also known as Proposition 200, as unconstitutional and in violation of federal law because it forced many new U.S. citizens to register to vote twice and forced all U.S. citizens to produce unnecessary paperwork in order to register to vote.
"Today's ruling vindicates all the U.S. citizens who were improperly rejected for voter registration in Arizona," stated Nina Perales, Vice President of Litigation for MALDEF, who argued the case before the en banc court. "Arizona may no longer flaunt federal law in voter registration, particularly in a manner that discriminates against newly naturalized citizens," continued Perales.
The lead plaintiff in the case, Jesus Gonzalez, was a newly-naturalized U.S. citizen when he tried to register to vote. He was rejected twice because Arizona officials claimed they could not confirm his citizenship, even after Mr. Gonzalez provided his driver's license and his naturalization certificate number.
The Ninth Circuit's 8-2 ruling was a strong affirmance of the National Voter Registration Act (the NVRA), a comprehensive law enacted by Congress to combat discriminatory and onerous state voter registration schemes. The en banc court upheld the district's ruling in favor of the voter identification portion of the law.
In response to the ruling, MALDEF President and General Counsel Thomas A. Saenz remarked, "At a time when we need to increase voter participation in our democracy, Arizona sought to restrict the franchise through discriminatory registration provisions. This lopsided victory in the en banc Ninth Circuit is one important step toward increased citizen engagement in voting."
MALDEF filed this case on behalf of individual voters and voter registration applicants as well as the following organizations: Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, Valle del Sol, Friendly House, Chicanos Por La Causa, the Arizona Hispanic Community Forum, ACORN, Project Vote, and Common Cause. Danny Ortega, of the law firm of Roush, McCracken, Guerrero, Miller & Ortega, and Karl Sandstrom of Perkins Coie are co-counsel with MALDEF in the case.
A copy of the decision is available online at:
Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the "law firm of the Latino community," MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit: www.maldef.org.