DENVER - The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which, by a 2-1 ruling and over a stinging dissent, struck down a key provision in a voter-approved ballot initiative requiring proof positive of citizenship to vote in Arizona, was urged today to rehear the case. Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF) advised the Ninth Circuit in its friend of the court filing that the panel failed to address the impact of voter fraud on the right to vote. In October 2010, the panel reversed an August 2008 ruling by an Arizona district court, which after a year and a half of discovery, a six-day bench trial, and post-trial briefing, found the law constitutional. The district court ruled that the burden of the law was not excessive, citizens’ interest in reliable elections outweighed any burden, and the law did not violate federal law or the constitution. A Ninth Circuit judge, with former Justice O’Connor, held the law conflicted with a federal statute; however, Chief Judge Kozinski asserted that the federal law invites laws such as that enacted by Arizona.
“The U.S. Supreme Court holds that States have a compelling interest in protecting the integrity of elections,” said MSLF president William Perry Pendley. “The majority erroneously ruled that, because Congress took action as to voter fraud, even if unsuccessful, Arizona may not fulfill its duty.”
In November 2004, by a margin of 56 percent to 44 percent, Arizona voters approved Proposition 200 to address the burden imposed on Arizona citizens by the payment of public benefits to illegal aliens. These benefits are believed, by some, to exceed $1 billion a year, or $700 for each Arizona household. Proposition 200 strengthens enforcement of existing laws related to illegal immigration by requiring all who register to vote or apply for “state” public benefits—excluding emergency medical assistance, non-cash emergency disaster relief, and public health assistance for immunizations and testing/treatment of communicable diseases—to prove citizenship.
Proposition 200 creates a verification process to enforce current laws that prohibit state and local governments from providing non-essential public benefits to illegal aliens. This process has been used since 1996 to verify eligibility for federal benefits, but Arizona became the first State to require presentation of a designated identity document at the voting polls.
In November 2004, the ACLU and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) contested Proposition 200’s constitutionality in a lawsuit that was dismissed by the Ninth Circuit in August 2005. In May 2006, MALDEF and others challenged Proposition 200’s registration and identification provisions. In October 2006, the Ninth Circuit enjoined those provisions; however, the U.S. Supreme Court subsequently reversed.
Mountain States Legal Foundation, founded in 1977, is a nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation dedicated to individual liberty, the right to own and use property, limited and ethical government, and the free enterprise system. Its offices are in suburban Denver, Colorado.