Supreme Court reverses ruling on Arizona voter ID

PHOENIX (AP) - Arizona voters will have to show identification after all to cast ballots next month.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday reversed a lower court injunction barring the state from implementing new rules requiring voters to show ID at the polls in the Nov. 7 General Election.

The Supreme Court's ruling was the latest and apparently final word on whether the voter ID requirement, first used statewide in the Sept. 12 primary election, would be in force in the general election.

A day before the primary, a federal judge ruled the state could enforce the law. But two weeks later, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked it from being used in the General Election. The state then appealed to the Supreme Court.

"This decision eliminates all confusion about what rules will be followed for the Nov. 7 General Election," Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard said.

The justices cautioned that they were not issuing a ruling on the constitutionality of Arizona's law. "As we have noted, the facts in these cases are hotly contested," the court said in an unsigned five-page opinion released in Washington.

The ruling on part of Proposition 200 merely allows the Nov. 7 election to proceed with the identification requirements in place.

Federal courts still will have to resolve a lawsuit contending that the law will disenfranchise numerous voters, particularly the elderly and minorities.

Courts in Georgia and Missouri have blocked similar laws.

In response to the ruling, Allen Tempert, Mohave County elections director, said "We are, right now, two and a half weeks away from the election. From this minute, all people who register will be required to prove citizenship. Fortunately, in anticipation of a possible court reversal of the Ninth Circuit, we have continued to train poll workers in both directions. We were prepared, and the poll workers who worked the last election were trained very thoroughly and will continue to be trained to handle the identification requirements mandated by the 2004 Proposition 200.

"Once again, the court has ruled," he said. "This time it is the country's highest court. We will follow the law's requirements."

According to Tempert, acceptable photo identification must include a name and address, such as a valid Arizona driver's license; a valid Arizona non-operating identification license; a tribal enrollment or identification card; or a valid United States federal, state or local government issued identification.

If a voter does not have a photo identification card, he or she may still vote by showing two pieces of non-photo identification that have a name and address on them. Usable are: a utility bill that is dated within ninety days of the election such as gas, electric, water, solid waste, sewer, telephone, cell phone or cable television; a bank or credit union statement dated within the ninety days; a valid Arizona vehicle registration; an Indian census card; a property tax statement; a tribal enrollment card; a vehicle insurance card; a recorder's certificate; a valid government issued identification; or any "official election material" bearing the voter's name and address.

"These requirements will be enforced at the polls," Tempert said. "Also, anyone who comes to Arizona or moves to a new residence in Arizona has to prove that he or she is a United States citizen. The requirements for this process are spelled out on the back of the voter registration form. One need only fill out the form and send it in with a photocopy of an acceptable document that establishes citizenship."

According to the voter registration form, a photocopy of one of the following documents will prove citizenship: a birth certificate or, if the name is different, a marriage certificate; pertinent pages of a United States passport; a driver's license or non operating license from another state if the license indicates proof of citizenship; a tribal certificate of Indian blood or tribal or Bureau of Indian Affairs affidavit of birth or a Bureau of Indian Affairs card number, tribal treaty card number or tribal enrollment number can be entered on box 16 on the form. An applicant can also present to the county recorder United States naturalization documents or print the number of the certificate of naturalization in box 20 on the front of the form.

It is too late to register to vote in the November General Election.

"Those who are already registered and haven't moved are fine," he said. "But everyone will have to show identification at the polls.

"No matter what we do, there will be people who arrive at the polls with insufficient identification," Tempert said. "Those people will not be issued a regular ballot. They will be given a conditional provisional ballot. They can fill it out, but it will not be counted unless they provide sufficient identification to the county recorder within five days of the General Election.

"The voters passed this proposition, the Supreme Court has put it back in effect and we will enforce it. These rules are not an option. They are requirements," Tempert said.

Supporters said the law was meant to make sure illegal immigrants weren't casting ballots.

Opponents contend it discourages some people from voting, including the elderly, poor and disadvantaged who don't always carry IDs. Arizona residents, Indian tribes and community groups filed suit in May.

In their opinion Friday, the justices noted the right under Proposition 200 to cast a provisional ballot and said voters without identification also can cast an early ballot without having to produce ID. Election workers check signatures on early ballots against the signatures on voter rolls.

"The election procedures implemented to effect Proposition 200 do not necessarily result in the turning away of qualified, registered voters by election officials for lack of proper identification," the court said.

The justices also said confidence in the integrity of elections is essential to participatory democracy. "Voter fraud drives honest citizens out of the democratic process and breeds distrust of our government," the ruling said.

Arizona Secretary of State Jan Brewer hailed the Supreme Court's ruling. "Today is a great day for the voters of Arizona and for election integrity in our state," Brewer said.

Nina Perales, an attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said the ruling "means many voters will be turned away from the polls on election day" because they lack the required ID.