Hispanic rights group wants to nullify Prop 200
Jan. 13, 2005
By Howard Fischer
PHOENIX - A Hispanic rights group is asking federal officials to veto changes in election laws approved in November by Arizona voters.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund contends that requirements for identification to register and vote will harm the ability of the state's Latino community to exercise its constitutional rights. MALDEF attorney Steven Reyes said that makes the provisions of Proposition 200 illegal violations of the federal Voting Rights Act.
Andrea Esquer, spokeswoman for the state Attorney General's Office, said her agency "will defend" the changes as legal.
Proposition 200 requires county election officials to reject any voter registration which is not accompanied by "satisfactory evidence of United States citizenship."
That can include an Arizona driver's license issued after Oct. 1, 1996, the day the state began requiring proof of legal residency for licenses. Other acceptable documents include birth certificates, passports and tribal ID cards.
Also acceptable are naturalization documents, or at least the number of the naturalization certificate. But in the latter case, the person cannot vote until that number is verified with federal officials.
Anyone showing up to vote has to show either one photo ID or two other documents with the person's name and address.
MALDEF is taking advantage of the fact that Arizona, along with some Southern States, is required to prove to the U.S. Department of Justice that any changes in voting laws do not adversely affect minority voting rights.
Reyes said the identification requirements will put an end to drives where individuals can be certified to go into communities and register voters. He said that will harm Latino communities which, until now, have managed a sharp increase in voter registration, resulting in a greater disparity between Anglos and Hispanics.
He also said the identification requirements are discriminatory. For example, Reyes said, Hispanics are only half as like to have vehicles -- and therefore, licenses -- as Anglos; native Americans only a quarter of that.
On top of that, Reyes said the requirement effectively is an illegal poll tax, as there is a fee to get a license, a passport or even a copy of a birth certificate.
He said it is irrelevant that people might need a driver's license to rent a video, an argument made by Kathy McKee, the organizer of the Proposition 200 campaign.
"Apparently, McKee is unaware that, for many in this state, and country, owning a VCR or DVD player and renting videos are luxuries," Reyes wrote. He said census statistics show minority households are more likely to have lower incomes.