Integrity of elections merits another look
Last October, a three-judge panel on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals exhibited stunning contempt for the basic expectation of unblemished elections when ruling 2 – 1 that the National Voter Registration Act pre-empts Arizona’s 2004 Proposition 200 (Arizona Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act).The federal act requires states to make registration opportunities “widely available” by removing “obstacles” to voter registration.
Former U.S.Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, an Arizonan, temporarily sat on the panel and was part of the majority decision. O’Connor and Circuit Judge Sandra Ikuta said Prop. 200 creates an additional hurdle, while the national act is intended to reduce “state-imposed obstacles” to registration. Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, dissented.
Now, the nation’s most overturned court has agreed to rehear the case “en banc” before an 11-judge panel and reconsider the previous decision to strike down Arizona’s requirement that residents provide proof of citizenship when they register to vote and show proof of identity at the polls on Election Day
Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, who oversees state elections said “The previous decision by the Ninth Circuit was an outrage, and I thought was a slap in the face to Arizonans who are concerned about the integrity of our elections. Opposition to the simple act of providing proof that you are legally eligible to participate in our elections is incomprehensible.”
Bennett has vowed to defend Prop. 200 in the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary. Arizona was the first state to require voters to show proof of citizenship, but Kansas and Georgia have recently enacted similar laws. An Appeals Court ruling would not impact the other states, although a Supreme Court ruling would.
National Voter Registration Act creates a standard federal registration form for all states. It requires applicants to sign a statement that they are citizens, but requires no proof. Prop. 200 requires applicants, regardless of whether they are submitting a federal registration form or a state one, to provide a driver’s license, passport, birth certificate, tribal identification or naturalization certification number.
A hearing date has yet to be scheduled.
Since last year’s general election, new registrations have soared statewide to 3,209,725. As of April 22, 2011 the number of voters who have registered as “Independent” or have not designated a party preference has risen by 48,023 to 1,030,500, while Republicans have added 10,243. Democrats have increased by 4,187. Libertarians make up a little less than one percent of the state’s total registration with 24,941, while those registered with the Green Party stands at 5,105.
The guarantee of secure elections is a fundamental expectation of each and every voting citizen. We should accept nothing less — regardless of what Sandra O’Connor thinks.