Ninth Circuit Ruling: Arizona’s Voter ID Law

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Associated Press reporter Paul Davenport explains the Ninth Circuit of Appeals ruling on Arizona’s law that requires voters to show ID at the polls and proof of citizenship when they register to vote.

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The Arizona house passes a bill that would allow certain businesses to drop contraception coverage in their health plans. The bill was rewritten to more narrowly focus on businesses with religious affiliations, but critics say the language is so broad, it can apply to any business. The bill now heads to the state senate.
Ted Simons: A full panel of the ninth circuit court of appeals ruled earlier this week on Arizona's 2004 voter I.D. law. It was a mixed decision of sorts as the court ruled both in favor and against certain parts of the Arizona law. Here to talk about the ruling is Paul Davenport, of the Associated Press here in Arizona. Good to see you again.

Paul Davenport: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us. Before we get to what the court ruled, what exactly is going on here, give us a brief history or synopsis of what this is all about.

Paul Davenport: This case stems from a 2004 law, and it was kind of a hodgepodge of things. It had provisions to deny certain public benefits to illegal immigrants, and it had some rather important provisions affecting voters. One was to require that voters when they're casting ballots at the polls that they show I.D. to prove who they are. The other part of that was when you register to vote, it requires you to provide proof of citizenship. The stated aim was to eliminate and prevent voter fraud. And of course that gets into a controversial political realm, the dispute between the parties.

Ted Simons: So the ninth circuit, originally the three-panel ninth circuit, originally, what did they rule?

Paul Davenport: They basically ruled that the portions due at proof of citizenship conflicted with federal law because there's a federal law that says you can use a federal form, essentially a postcard to register to vote, and the states have to allow use of that form. On the other hand, states can also have their own processes, their own forms, and Arizona does. And we get into this case, and the ruling by the large panel of the ninth circuit, which the is the one that came out just now, said in fact Arizona can't override that federal law that you still have to permit people to register to vote with that federal form. But they said it didn't affect -- there's no problem with legally with the use of the state-owned processes, you can go online and use the state provided form, both of them still require proof of citizenship.

Ted Simons: So basically the three-judge and the ninth panel saw that the federal law supercedes in this case, but what about this voter I.D. at polling places?

Paul Davenport: That was upheld. That remains a law. That's been in use in Arizona since this law was passed. And that's still on the books and still being enforced and there's no change on that.

Ted Simons: But the idea that the federal form now, do people use this very often?

Paul Davenport: From what I'm told, no, they don't. Most people use the state form, which is what would you get when you register at county elections office, or they register online through the motor vehicle system when you renew your license you can register to vote. But of those have provisions for requiring proof of citizenship.

Ted Simons: I understand these enforcements are not necessarily a free pass. You have to avow you are a citizen and have you to be -- I guess they somehow tell you there's threat of federal prosecution if you aren't a citizen and you go ahead and send these in. So there are some ramifications. But the court was really more interested in federal versus state.

Paul Davenport: That's right. They're staying you don't get to trump federal law because the federal law is clear on this. The critics of the state law on this regard said that, yes, the federal law form isn't used very much, but this ruling may have the effect of making it more prevalent. It is easier to use, it's essentially a postcard, you don't have to copy any other document and enclose witness an envelope and mail it in. So it's easier.

Ted Simons: So with that in mind, I hear the secretary of state saying we're going to take it to the Supreme Court, attorney general, are they going to take this to the Supreme Court?

Paul Davenport: That's what they say. The other side says they're not going to appeal. When I talked to them about it, they said well, they had already lost at the lower court so they're not going to push that issue. Push their part of the case. But the state officials say, yeah, they want to take it to the Supreme Court.

Ted Simons: Even though no one really much uses it now, their idea, what, ideology and the fact it could open the floodgates. Perhaps their position?

Paul Davenport: Their position. And a prediction on the other side saying the federal form could become more popular.

Ted Simons: The idea, I was reading one of the opinions here that checking I.D. is inherently and traditionally intimidating to Latinos. Can you talk about that? The reasoning behind that? I know that was another reason that this thing was challenged. But literary tests, literacy tests were used as late as the 1960s as preconditions, these things?

Paul Davenport: The opinion talked about how there has been -- there's proof of discrimination affecting minorities in Arizona. But what it also concluded was that they didn't find evidence that it was -- that this provision had that effect. So that's what it shook out as.

Ted Simons: When everything kind of shakes out as you say, this was a win overall for the state. The state law did pretty much hold on.

Paul Davenport: Most of the status quo as approved by voters, is intact.

Ted Simons: Ok. We'll stop it there. Good information. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Paul Davenport: You're welcome. Thank you.

Paul Davenport:Reporter, Associated Press;

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