Discriminatory Arizona law attempts to supersede federal voter law

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MALDEF filed a brief at the U.S. Supreme Court today in Arizona v. ITCA, the longstanding challenge to Proposition 200, Arizona’s 2004 law imposing burdensome documentation requirements on new voter registrants. MALDEF argues in the brief that Proposition 200 is unconstitutional because it goes beyond what federal law requires to register for federal elections, preventing many U.S. citizens from participating in those elections. Fortunately, the law was enjoined prior to the 2012 election after the Ninth Circuit, sitting en banc, upheld MALDEF's challenge.

In 1993, seeking to increase voter participation, Congress enacted the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), also known as the Motor Voter Act, and required all states to accept a simplified voter registration form designed by the federal government. Under Proposition 200, Arizona registrars must reject that federal form if it is not accompanied by additional documents that Arizona claims prove U.S. citizenship.

MALDEF President and General Counsel, Thomas A. Saenz, stated: "This case, which the Supreme Court will hear and decide this year, is critically important to the goal of increasing voter participation in this country and of ensuring the strength of our democracy. Unless restrained through the Supreme Court's decision in this case, Arizona will continue to disenfranchise voters by rejecting registrants who fail to meet onerous authentication requirements that go well beyond what the Congress has determined, for two decades, to be sufficient for federal elections."

In April 2012, an 11-judge en banc panel of the Ninth Circuit struck down critical provisions of Proposition 200 and affirmed that the NVRA, 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.

In response, Arizona filed an emergency request with the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the Ninth Circuit decision, which was denied in June, allowing the case to move back to the federal district court for a decision on the remedy. That remedy was Judge Silver’s August 2012 order instructing Arizona to stop requiring additional paperwork from citizens who submit a federal voter registration form to register to vote. The state and its counties were required to go back and add to the voter rolls all of the people who registered to vote using the federal form, and ensure that the federal registration form was widely distributed and available.

Arizona sought review of the Ninth Circuit decision at the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that Proposition 200 does not conflict with the NVRA, and that it has authority under the Constitution to administer federal elections in its own way. The Court will hear arguments in the case on March 18.

Nina Perales, MALDEF Vice President of Litigation and lead counsel in the case, stated: "Against a backdrop of substantial Latino population growth, and in the guise of preventing undocumented immigration, Arizona adopted restrictive voter registration rules that have prevented tens of thousands of citizens from joining the electorate. Arizona's Proposition 200 violates federal law and we look forward to the Supreme Court's review of the case."

MALDEF represents individual voters and voter registrants 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. Danny Ortega of Ortega Law Firm P.C., and Karl Sandstrom of Perkins Coie are co-counsel with MALDEF in the case.

Click here for a copy of MALDEF’s brief.

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:

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