MALDEF RESPONDS TO SUPREME COURT ORAL ARGUEMENT IN CASE IT FILED CHALLENGING ARIZONA VOTER REGISTRATION RESTRICTIONS
WASHINGTON, D.C. - MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) is confident following today’s oral arguments at the United States Supreme Court in Arizona v. Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona (Arizona v. ITCA).
At issue in the case is Arizona’s Proposition 200, which requires that persons newly registering to vote in Arizona must first present copies of specific documents proving they are U.S. citizens.
The Arizona measure conflicts with the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993, which permits U.S. citizens from any state to register to vote by means of a simple, standardized postcard. Applicants sign the postcard, under penalty of perjury, affirming their citizenship and other qualifications. No additional documentation is necessary or can be required under this law.
“The citizen's right to participate and vote is too important to permit ill-founded state measures to undermine our presidential and congressional elections,” said Thomas A. Saenz, President and General Counsel of MALDEF. “The NVRA, by ensuring fairness across the country, guarantees that every Arizonan will have the right to vote enjoyed in other parts of the nation.”
In today’s case, Arizona v. ITCA, the Supreme Court is reviewing a decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which held last summer in an 8-2 en banc ruling that provisions of the Arizona law violate and are superseded by the NVRA.
MALDEF and its clients filed the original challenge to the Arizona law, and Nina Perales, MALDEF Vice President of Litigation, argued the case at the District Court level and three times before the Ninth Circuit.
In a thirty-month period following passage of Proposition 200, Arizona denied voter registration to more than 31,500 applicants for failing to provide additional documentation. In Maricopa County alone, community voter registration plummeted by 44 percent.
Arizona claims that Proposition 200 is needed to prevent fraudulent voter registration by undocumented immigrants. Yet the state has been unable to produce even one case of a non-citizen attempting to register to vote with the federal postcard form. In fact, ironically, the great majority of rejected voters were neither immigrants nor Latino.
“Arizona’s measure is simply a solution in search of a problem. We don’t think the Supreme Court is going to buy this ‘election fraud’ fiction that Arizona is putting forth,” said Perales. “We believe the Court will act to protect the integrity of the Constitution.”
SevaPriya Barrier is a U.S.-born citizen with master’s and law degrees who testified in MALDEF’s case. On moving to Tucson with her husband in 2010, she registered to vote but was rejected under Proposition 200. Barrier attended today’s oral argument at the Supreme Court.
Outside the courthouse today, Barrier said, “I was raised to value and practice participation in civic life. When I moved to Arizona I wanted to exercise my fundamental right to vote, yet was denied despite meeting the qualifications. Citizens have the right to register and participate in federal elections; the NVRA ensures that we can register to vote through a federal process without interference by states.”
MALDEF’s clients in the case include individuals who were rejected for voter registration under Proposition 200, 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, Project Vote, and Common Cause.
Additional organizations contested Proposition 200 by filing a separate lawsuit later, which was then consolidated with the case MALDEF filed.
For more information on the case, please visit:
Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the "Latino Legal Voice for Civil Rights in America" 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.
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