Asian Americans Urge Federal Appeals Court to Affirm Illegality of Arizona's Discriminatory Voter Proof of Citizenship Law

Wednesday, Jun 8, 2011

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), with pro bono co-counsel Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP, filed an amicus "friend of the court" brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Gonzalez v. Arizona, challenging the legality of Proposition 200, Arizona's restrictive voter proof of citizenship law passed in 2004.

On October 26, 2010, a three-judge panel in the Ninth Circuit struck down the law, finding the requirement that new voters present proof of United States citizenship violated the National Voter Registration Act. (Gonzalez v. Arizona, 624 F.3d 1162 (9th Cir. 2010)) On April 27, 2011, the Court granted a re-hearing en banc, with the full Ninth Circuit considering the case.  Argument is scheduled for June 20.

The amicus brief contends that Proposition 200 violates the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA).  Congress enacted the NVRA to promote voter registration and to eliminate state-imposed voting requirements because they "disproportionately harm[ed] voter participation by various groups including racial minorities."  

Proposition 200 mandates a burdensome and unequal voting requirement on non-citizens.  While native-born citizens may mail copies of their U.S. birth certificates with their voter registration applications, naturalized citizens do not have the same option and may only provide naturalization certificates in person, not by mail.  

Asian Americans are disproportionately affected by proof of citizenship requirements because a high percentage of them are naturalized citizens. Of the approximately 126,497 Asian Americans living in Arizona, 51,370 are foreign-born naturalized citizens. Potentially 40% of the Asian American community may encounter the barriers of Proposition 200 when attempting to register to vote. By contrast, only 3.5% of White Americans are foreign-born naturalized citizens, with few burdened by Proposition 200.  

Glenn D. Magpantay, AALDEF Democracy Program director, said, "All eligible citizens, either naturalized or native-born, should have equal access to the electoral process.  The barriers naturalized citizens encounter as a result of Proposition 200 run contrary to the  NVRA, which seeks to eliminate such barriers to voting."  

AALDEF's amicus brief in the Gonzalez re-hearing can be found here.