By Mary Jo Pitzl, The Arizona Republic
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear arguments on Arizona's law that requires people to show proof of citizenship in order to register to vote.
The case involves Proposition 200, which voters approved in 2004, and adds to the election-related cases pending before the nation's top court.
In this case, state attorneys want the court to overturn an appeals-court ruling that has created a two-track system for voter registration: a state form that requires people to produce documents proving citizenship, and a federal form that requires no documents but instead requires people to attest they are citizens, under penalty of perjury.
An individual can use either form to register to vote in Arizona elections.
Attorney General Tom Horne said that the document requirement is important to guard against fraud and that he plans to argue for it when the high court hears the case, most likely in February.
"This 'honor system' is not sufficient to guard the integrity of the election system," he said in a statement. He said the record in the ongoing litigation shows "substantial evidence of voter fraud," which he believes makes the case for the document requirement.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this summer ruled that Arizona cannot impose the document requirement on those using the federal registration form to register to vote in Arizona because state law can't add to federal requirements.
The Arizona Advocacy Network Foundation, which has led opposition to the policy from the beginning, argues the document requirement denies people the chance to vote.
"This gets down to the very fundamental business of our democracy: the right of people to register to vote," said Sam Wercinski, executive director of the advocacy network.
He said his group has dealt with numerous people, largely voting-age students, who don't have acceptable identification on them when they go to register to vote.
No one carries around their birth certificate or passport, he said, and many students don't have an Arizona driver's license, which in itself is proof because of a 2-decades-old state law that requires proof of citizenship to get an Arizona license.
Wercinski noted that some states allow voters to register on election day, with no problems.
"Why are our Arizona officials unable to achieve that franchising effort for its citizens?" he questioned.
Arizona voters approved Proposition 200 by 56 percent to 44 percent.The proof-of-citizenship requirement pertains to both registering to vote and voting; however, the requirement to show ID at the polls is not part of this case.
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