Dan Tokaji's Blog
Professor Dan Tokaji
Election reform, the Voting Rights Act, the Help America Vote Act, and related topics -- with special attention to the voting rights of people of color, non-English proficient citizens, and people with disabilities

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Equal Vote
Monday, November 7
Denying the Vote in Arizona
Today's L.A. Times has this excellent report on Arizona's Proposition 200, which requires voters to establish their citizenship and present identification in order to vote. Though ostensibly designed to prevent undocumented immigrants from voting, election officials say that it will in reality prevent tens of thousands citizens from voting on election day. In Maricopa County, where Phoenix is located, election officials say that over 10,000 people have been rejected because they couldn't prove their citizenship. In Pima County, where Tucson is located, it's reported that 60% of those who tried to registered were at first rejected.

Defenders of the law argue that it's been "too easy" for people to vote. But how many of those people were undocumented immigrants? Undoubtedly very few. In Pima, for example, the chief deputy registrar reported that all of those rejected appeared to be U.S. citizens, but many had recently moved to Arizona and thus didn't have proper documentation. For someone who's not legally in this country, attempting to vote or even to register is a high risk, low reward strategy -- more than that, it's downright foolish. And there's precious little evidence that it happens on more than an isolated basis. More than likely the vast majority of these prevented from voting in Arizona are U.S. citizens. And when the evidence is in, it's a safe bet that a disproportionate number of them will be Latinos and Native Americans.

If the L.A. Times reporting is accurate, then what's going on in Arizona is a travesty. Immigrant-bashers are playing upon the public's xenophobia to prevent tens of thousands of people from voting. More clearly than anything else we've seen, the events in Arizona expose ID requirements as the disenfranchisement strategy that they are. What remains to be seen is whether the courts will stand up to stop such vote denial schemes, and thereby protect the fundamental right to vote.

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Moritz College of Law The Ohio State University