Federal court orders Arizona to make significant changes to voter registration practices

PHOENIX, AZ – Today, MALDEF won a court order instructing Arizona to stop requiring additional paperwork from citizens who submit a federal voter registration form to register to vote. Today’s order, by U.S. District Court Chief Judge Roslyn Silver, followed a ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that Arizona violated the National Voter Registration Act when it imposed additional requirements of registrants who submitted the federal form. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Arizona’s request to block the Ninth Circuit decision and prevent the lower court from carrying out the decision.

"The federal court's order ensures that Arizona can count on a more inclusive process in coming elections than would have been the case following the overly restrictive Proposition 200," stated Thomas A. Saenz, President and General Counsel, MALDEF. "Democracy has been strengthened and elections will be more legitimate as a result of the order."

In this case, Gonzalez v. Arizona, the Ninth Circuit en banc struck down critical provisions of an Arizona law that restricted voter registration and affirmed that the National Voter Registration Act, a comprehensive law enacted by Congress to combat discriminatory and onerous state voter registration schemes, preempts the additional documentation requirements that Arizona had imposed on voter registrants. MALDEF challenged the 2004 law, Proposition 200, as unconstitutional because it forced many new U.S. citizens to register to vote twice and forced many U.S. citizens to produce unnecessary paperwork in order to register to vote.

Following the Ninth's Circuit's en banc decision, the State of Arizona filed an emergency request with the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the mandate from the Ninth Circuit. Arizona’s request was denied on June 28, allowing the case to move back to the federal district court for a decision on the remedy.

The District Court decided today that Arizona and its counties cannot use Proposition 200 to reject registrants using the federal form. By August 21, 2012 the counties must go back and add to the voter rolls all the people who registered to vote using the federal form during the past year but were illegally denied registration under Proposition 200.

"Today's decision finally blocks Arizona’s illegal practice of rejecting U.S. citizens who try to register to vote with the federal form," stated Nina Perales, MALDEF Vice President for Litigation and lead counsel in the case. "Arizona will now have to follow federal law and allow Arizonans to register to vote with the form of their choosing," continued Perales.

Additionally, the State and its counties must ensure widespread distribution of the federal form and no later than August 31, 2012, must make the federal form available where they make the state form available, including websites.

MALDEF originally 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 Ortega Law Firm P.C., and Karl Sandstrom of Perkins Coie are co-counsel with MALDEF in the case.

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:

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund