News Law and Policy

Supreme Court To Review Arizona Law That Voters Prove Citizenship After the Election

Jessica Mason Pieklo

On Monday the Supreme Court agreed to review whether Arizona's requirement that voters provide proof of citizenship prior to registering conflicts with federal law.

The Supreme Court will decide whether an Arizona law that requires voters to present identification before voting proving they are U.S. citizens is constitutional.

The requirement is part of Proposition 200, a law approved by Arizona voters in 2004, which tied a host of benefits and rights to proof of citizenship, including some government benefits. The voter identification provision of Proposition 200 was challenged and blocked by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which held that federal election law preempts Arizona’s identification requirement. Federal law allows voters to fill out a mail-in voter registration card and swear they are citizens under penalty of perjury. Federal law does not require an additional showing of proof of citizenship, but the 2004 Arizona law does.

The Ninth Circuit’s ruling applies only to those who register using the federal mail-in form. Arizona has its own separate form and online system to register to vote and the Ninth Circuit ruling doesn’t affect proof of citizenship requirements using the state forms.

That means the Supreme Court review will touch on this issue of federalism and not the broader question of whether Arizona can tie proof of citizenship to voting and receipt of state benefits generally. And because the Ninth Circuit decision blocked the 2004 law from going into effect and because the Court will not rule on the case until after this year’s election, the requirement will not be in effect come November 6th.

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News Law and Policy

Wisconsin GOP’s Voter Restriction Law Suffers Another Legal Blow

Imani Gandy

In blocking many of Wisconsin's elections restrictions, the lower court ruled that the state must reform how it deals with voters who have difficulty obtaining the required photo ID to vote.

A federal appeals court yesterday refused to stay a lower court order blocking several Wisconsin voting restrictions, allowing election officials to move forward with early voting in the state next month.

Attorneys on behalf of the state of Wisconsin filed the request for a stay with the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals after a lower court judge last month issued an injunction that blocked parts of Wisconsin’s sweepings elections laws.

The lower court ruled that the justification for the laws did not justify the burden on voting rights that they impose. And this week a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit declined to stay that ruling, without explaining.

The ruling comes days after elections officials in Madison and Milwaukee announced their intention to kick off early voting in late September, a month earlier than would have been allowed had the lower court not struck down the restrictions on early voting, according to the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.

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The Republican-backed elections law created state-imposed limitations on the time and location for in-person absentee voting, a provision requiring absentee ballots be sent by mail instead of fax or email, the requirement that dorm lists—a certified list provided by the university of the students living in college housing, which student voters may use as proof of residence—must include citizenship information, a ban on using expired but otherwise qualifying student IDs to establish proof of residency, and a 28-day durational residency requirement.

In blocking many of Wisconsin’s elections restrictions, the lower court ruled that the state must reform how it deals with voters who have difficulty obtaining the required photo ID to vote. Gov. Scott Walker (R) and the GOP-controlled Wisconsin legislature had implemented a system under which people who don’t have birth certificates or who have problems with gathering documentation needed to obtain the proper identification would still be able to vote.

The lower court noted that the Walker administration’s system did not provide a viable long-term solution for those voters who could not obtain their birth certificates because they were destroyed in fires or misplaced by bureaucrats.

The court later stayed that portion of the ruling, stating that the system created by Walker’s administration—which provides people with temporary voting credentials while they await a decision about whether they qualify for an ID—was sufficient to allow people to vote during the upcoming November election and therefore does not need to be immediately reformed.

The ruling comes on the heels of a ruling in another voting rights case in Wisconsin, Frank v. Walker, about the state’s voter ID law. In that case, a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit stayed a ruling that would have permitted anyone eligible to vote in Wisconsin to an accommodation that would permit that voter to cast a ballot after signing an affidavit stating that they could not easily obtain an ID.

News Law and Policy

North Carolina, Texas Want ‘Discriminatory’ Voter ID Laws Reinstated

Imani Gandy

Republicans in state legislatures that have passed rigid voter ID laws have claimed that such laws are necessary to prevent in-person voter fraud. GOP-led investigations, however, have not turned up any evidence of voter fraud.

Officials in North Carolina and Texas want the Supreme Court to reinstate voter ID laws after two federal appeals courts ruled they should not take effect, setting the stage for a potential Roberts Court fight over voting rights during a presidential election.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) on Monday said in a statement that the state had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stay last month’s Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that struck down the voter ID requirement. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals released that decision in July, holding that the Republican-majority legislature had enacted the voter ID provision of HB 589 with a discriminatory intent to burden Black voters, and that it violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

McCrory said the Fourth Circuit’s ruling striking down that state’s voter ID law would create confusion during the upcoming November election.

“Allowing the Fourth Circuit’s ruling to stand creates confusion among voters and poll workers and it disregards our successful rollout of Voter ID in the 2016 primary elections,” McCrory said in a statement.

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“The Fourth Circuit’s ruling is just plain wrong and we cannot allow it to stand. We are confident that the Supreme Court will uphold our state’s law and reverse the Fourth Circuit,” he continued.

North Carolina is now represented by Paul Clement, who successfully argued Shelby County v. Holder, the 2013 case that gutted the Voting Rights Act. In its emergency filing, the state asked the Supreme Court to stay the Fourth Circuit’s ruling, arguing that the 2013 GOP-backed elections law “was the product not of racial animus, but of simply policy disagreements between two political parties about what voting measures are best for North Carolina,” according to SCOTUSblog.

North Carolina will petition the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari in the upcoming term. In the meantime, the state awaits the Supreme Court’s ruling on its emergency request for a stay.

A spokesperson for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said on Tuesday that Texas would appeal the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling that Texas’ voter ID law, SB 14, disproportionately burdened Black and Latino voters in violation of the Voting Rights Act, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Writing for the Fifth Circuit majority, Judge Catharina Haynes wrote, “[t]he record shows that drafters and proponents of SB 14 were aware of the likely disproportionate effect of the law on minorities, and that they nonetheless passed the bill without adopting a number of proposed ameliorative measures that might have lessened this impact.”

“The primary concern of this court and the district court should be to ensure that SB 14’s discriminatory effect is ameliorated … in time for the November 2016 election,” Haynes continued.

In response to the Fifth Circuit’s ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos approved a plan that would allow voters without the requisite photo identification to vote in Texas in the November election, absent the Roberts Court stepping in.

Under Ramos’ order, people can vote if they sign a declaration of citizenship and present proof of residence in Texas, such as a paycheck stub, bank statement, or utility bill, according to the Texas Tribune.

Paxton’s spokesperson would not specify whether the state would file an emergency appeal in advance of its petition for writ of certiorari. In order to reinstate the voter ID law, Texas would need to file an emergency appeal and ask the Supreme Court to stay the case, as officials in North Carolina have done.

Republicans in state legislatures that have passed rigid voter ID laws have claimed that such laws are necessary to prevent in-person voter fraud. GOP-led investigations, however, have not turned up any evidence of voter fraud. A study conducted by Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt found a mere 31 credible incidents of voter impersonation out of more than 1 billion votes that were cast nationwide from 2000 through 2014.

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