Court blocks Arizona voter ID

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Commentary

TUCSON, Ariz. — In a victory for democratic elections, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has granted an injunction that bars enforcement of Arizona’s oppressive voter identification requirements during the Nov. 7 election.

The Arizona law, passed by voters as Proposition 200 in 2004, requires persons to submit proof of citizenship when registering to vote and, once registered, to present identification when casting their ballots.

Masquerading as a law to prevent undocumented immigrants from voting and receiving social services, Prop. 200 was a frontal attack on the ability of many working people to participate in elections. About half of all voter registrations in Arizona have been tossed out by election officials since Prop. 200 was passed.

The most anti-democratic feature of the law is the requirement that voters submit proof of citizenship when registering to vote. That means that a copy of a birth certificate, naturalization papers or passport must be submitted.

Most working-class voters don’t have passports or naturalization papers. Many Americans, especially older, rural people who were not born in hospitals, don’t have birth certificates.

In additon, acquiring a copy of one’s birth certificate can cost $15 or more. Having such a requirement, critics say, amounts to imposing a new poll tax, which courts have ruled to be unconstitutional.

The big-business-owned media completely ignored this feature, alleging only that a citizen need to “show” and not “submit” proof of citizenship when registering.

The requirement to submit such proof has made it nearly impossible to register voters while campaigning door-to-door or while standing on a street corner. The only reason that about half of recently submitted registrations were accepted is that Attorney General Terry Goddard ruled that having an Arizona driver’s license number qualifies as proof of citizenship — if it was issued after 1996. Licenses since that time indicate whether the driver is a U.S. citizen.

At the same time, many older drivers and non-drivers have been prevented from registering to vote.

The corporate media misrepresents the law by stressing the law’s requirement for having an ID at the polling place and underplaying the registration feature of the law. Most people, especially drivers, carry some form of ID at all times.

What the media almost completely ignores is the racist edge to this law, which was intended to racially profile and intimidate Mexican American voters. For example, when I went to vote in last year’s municipal election, I was not asked to produce identification. When I inquired about this with others, all my Mexican American friends said they were asked for an ID.

Arizona has a long history of Mexican American voters being intimidated and challenged at the polls.

The court injunction is to remain in effect pending the outcome of a court challenge to the law. Unfortunately, the injunction came down just three days before the close of registration for this year’s election.

Court challenges to the law have been filed by many groups, including the Mexican-American Legal and Educational Fund, the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, the League of Women Voters, the Navajo Nation, the Arizona Civil Liberties Union and the Arizona Advocacy Network.

pwwinaz@webtv.net