Editorial: Citizenship proof to vote is a no-brainer
The state of Arizona has no business pre-empting federal voter registration laws, according to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The court got it wrong Tuesday when it handed down that ruling, effectively striking part of an Arizona law requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote.
We admit the United States has a long history of states trying to keep segments of their population from becoming legal voters. That's why Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act in 1993, requiring states to use and accept the federal voter registration form without additional documentation. The court's ruling this past week left in place a requirement that voters provide proof of identity when casting ballots.
Arizona voters in 2004 passed Proposition 200, a ballot measure demanding that residents provide proof of citizenship when they register to vote and before they can receive certain state benefits. A coalition of civil rights and Native American groups challenged the voter ID law, saying thousands of legal Arizona residents were being denied their right to vote because they lacked proof of citizenship when trying to register.
"This (ruling) will enable the many poor people in Arizona who lack driver's licenses and birth certificates to register to vote," said Jon Greenbaum, legal director for the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
Congress did not make proof of citizenship part of the federal voter registration process; instead, it made providing false information a crime of perjury - a catch-me-if-you-can measure that to date has seen little, if any, enforcement. The intent was to discourage fraud but make it easy to register with the hope of increasing voter participation, which conservatives level as an accusation against liberals whenever any form of amnesty for illegal immigrants comes up.
Critics of the ID law say Arizona residents who believe significant numbers of undocumented immigrants are voting should provide proof and take the matter up with Congress. "If it is a substantial problem, then the solution must be national," they told The Associated Press.
We disagree, siding with the 9th Circuit's chief judge, Alex Kozinski, who wrote a sharp dissent - that the court's ruling ignored precedent and was flat wrong on its legal analysis. "Few panels are able to upset quite so many apple carts all at once," Kozinski concluded. "Count me out."
Simply put, non-citizens do not have the right to vote and, if a problem exists, the court and lawmakers should treat the disease - not the symptoms. Preventing fraudulent voter registration is paramount. And if you do not have proper identification or documentation, then go get it.