MALDEF PREVAILS IN TENTH CIRCUIT: WINS DECISION THAT KANSAS AND ARIZONA CANNOT BURDEN VOTER REGISTRATIONS
Court of Appeals Overturns Kansas District Court and Federal Voter Registration Form Continues Unmodified
DENVER, CO - Today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reversed a decision by the federal district court in Kansas, which ordered the federal government to add onerous voter registration requirements to the federal voter registration form. Today's court of appeals decision concluded that Kansas and Arizona, which had sued to force the federal government to incorporate citizenship documentation requirements on the federal voter registration form, had failed to prove that the current voter registration requirements were inadequate and that non-citizens had registered to vote using the federal form.
Today's appeals court ruling relied heavily on Arizona v. ITCA, a case MALDEF won last June, in which the U.S. Supreme Court held, by a 7-2 vote, that state-voting laws must yield to the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993. The Arizona voter registration requirement was enacted as part of a 2004 anti-immigrant initiative and was premised on patently false assertions of widespread non-citizen voting
"The court's decision further reinforces the wholesale fraud behind accusations of widespread non-citizen voting, and the critical importance of court rulings grounded in law," stated Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel. "Regrettably, this canard of non-citizen voting will be raised again in ongoing efforts by fact deniers and perverters of law to diminish voter participation; our national citizenry deserves far more respect."
Federal law, specifically the NVRA, permits U.S. citizens from any state to register to vote by means of a simple, standardized postcard. Applicants sign the postcards, under penalty of perjury, affirming their citizenship and other qualifications to vote. No additional documentation is necessary or requested under this law. In its Arizona v. ITCA decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held that Arizona cannot require additional paperwork related to citizenship to register for federal elections. The Supreme Court made clear that only the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) can decide whether to incorporate state documentary proof–of-citizenship requirements into the federal form.
Today, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the EAC's authority as the final decisionmaker on changes to the federal form. It said, "contrary to Kobach's and Bennett's claims, the NVRA does not impose a ministerial duty on the EAC to approve state requests to change the Federal Form. The Executive Director's denial of the states' requests survives our APA review, and the states' constitutional claims are unavailing."
"Today's decision is a powerful vindication of the right to vote," stated Nina Perales, MALDEF Vice President of Litigation. "The appeals court found that Kansas and Arizona could not prove that the current federal voter registration form is insufficient. Today, logic and the law prevailed over anti-immigrant race-baiting."
Arizona's voter registration law prevented over 30,000 individuals from registering to vote before the federal courts barred further implementation of the onerous and unnecessary requirements. And, in Kansas, a similar law has resulted in over 17,000 voter registrations being placed in suspense.
Co-counsel with MALDEF are the law firms of O'Melveny & Myers LLP and Husch Blackwell. MALDEF filed its notice of appeal jointly with other organizations representing intervenors in the litigation, including Project Vote; Thompson Law Firm, LLC; Arnold & Porter, LLP; Disability Rights Center of Kansas; Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; Steptoe & Johnson, LLP; The Sparks Law Firm, P.C.; Osborn Maledon, P.A.; AARP Foundation Litigation; Kirkland & Ellis, LLP; Fleeson, Gooing, Coulson & Kitch L.L.C.; and Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.
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.