A twenty-year old, and highly successful, federal voter registration law known as "Motor Voter" is at issue ina legal battle that MALDEF has been leading and winning for nearly seven years. The challenge to Arizona's Proposition 200, enacted in 2004, has made its way to the United States Supreme Court.
Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona (ITCA), a case about the constitutionality of Arizona’s law to
require additional documentation of new voter registrants, will be heard by the Court this morning, March18. MALDEF Vice President of Litigation, Nina Perales, is MALDEF's lead counsel in the case, and hassuccessfully led the challenge through the District Court and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, including alopsided 8-2 victory before an en banc panel. Today is the final leg of a legal journey to protect the mostbasic principle of democracy
the right to vote. Although the case now bears the name of a later-filed companion case, the case initially began in May of 2006 as Gonzalez v. Arizona, when MALDEF filed a lawsuit on behalf of individual voters, voter registrationapplicants, and Arizona community organizations, to block a provision of Proposition 200 because it forcedU.S. citizens to meet unnecessary and discriminatory new identification requirements in order to vote in thethen impending pri
mary and general elections. MALDEF also sought to remove new “proof of citizenship”
requirements that had prevented thousands of voter applicants from being placed on the rolls for thoseelections. The law was passed by Arizona voters in November 2004, as part of a broader law designed todeter undocumented immigration through denial of government services. After years of legal battles, and a 2008 trial in the case, MALDEF won a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
decision in October 2010, overturning the law’
s requirement that new registrants meet onerousdocumentation requirements to prove citizenship to register to vote. The decision declared the right of Arizona citizens to register to vote, just one week before a critical national election. It was also a strongaffirmance of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), a law enacted by Congress in 1993, also knownas "Motor Voter", to facilitate and increase participation of citizens in the electoral process.The full Ninth Circuit court granted an Arizona request to review its panel's decision, but the eleven-judgeen banc court upheld the panel decision in April 2012. The 8-2 en banc ruling (one of the eleven judgeshearing the case passed away before the decision) concluded that Proposition 200's voter registrationprovision is unconstitutional because it is inconsistent with federal law guaranteeing uniform voter registration procedures established by the NVRA. The court concluded that Arizona's onerousdocumentation-of-citizenship procedure is preempted by Congress's legislation, under the Constitution'sElections Clause power, to establish a federal form for voters registering to vote in federal elections. Arizona filed an emergency request with the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the decision. The denial of therequest permitted many eligible Arizonans to register and participate in last year's election after the DistrictCourt ordered the state to comply with the Ninth Circuit decision.In a last ditch effort to suppress participation, Arizona appealed the Ninth Circuit decision to the U.S.Supreme Court, where oral argument will be heard this morning. In a brief to the Court in January,MALDEF argued that Proposition 200 is unconstitutional because it oversteps federal law requirements for federal election registration, preventing many U.S. citizens from participating in those elections. For the textof the brief, CLICK HERE
.The Court’s decision will be critical to the protection of voting rights in Arizona
and other states in the nationMALDEF 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 LawFirm 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 asthe "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.