Court says Arizona can demand voter identification

April 18, 2012

By Tim Gaynor

(Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday ruled Arizona may require voters to show identification at the polls, a ruling likely to add fuel to the fiery debate about voting rights in a presidential election year.

But the court also ruled the state cannot demand that they show proof of U.S. citizenship to register to vote in federal elections, a decision the state’s attorney general said he would appeal.

That could set the stage for yet another U.S. Supreme Court showdown over a contentious Arizona law touching on citizenship issues. Next week, the high court will hear arguments over the state’s effort to crack down on illegal immigration.

At issue in Tuesday’s ruling was a 2004 Arizona ballot initiative, Proposition 200, that amended state election laws to add the citizenship and identification requirements. The measure – designed to stop illegal immigrants from voting – was challenged in court shortly afterward.

While agreeing that Arizona was within its rights to require identification at voting places, the appeals court concluded the national Voting Rights Act superseded the law’s requirement that anyone registering to vote in a federal election show “satisfactory evidence” of U.S. citizenship.

A growing number of states have enacted voter ID laws, prompting a divisive debate over whether proponents are seeking to limit access to the polls in a presidential election year.

Thirty states have laws requiring that voters show at least some type of identification to vote in November, according to the National Council of State Legislatures.

Several states have enacted voter photo ID laws since the start of 2011, including Texas, Wisconsin, Kansas and Pennsylvania, though the U.S. Justice Department has blocked the Texas law and a state judge has blocked the Wisconsin law.

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