Rumble in the Desert

Civil rights groups are challenging Arizona’s Prop 200, which endangers voting rights for citizens.

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Article created by The Century Foundation.

Without a lot of fanfare, a very important lawsuit was filed last week by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and other groups in Arizona. Finally, two years after the passage of the quite pernicious Prop 200, groups are finally taking serious action to combat it.

Basically an anti-immigrant measure, Prop 200 set out a bunch of restrictions on access to services for immigrants. However, with respect to voting rights, Prop 200 set up a situation blocking the right to vote for many citizens by requiring every person registering to vote to prove citizenship.

As the Lawyer’s Committee describes it, Proposition 200 requires that that counties reject any voter registration application that does not include satisfactory proof of citizenship, such as a copy of the applicant’s birth certificate, passport, a driver’s license or non-operating identification license, but only if issued after October 1, 1996, a tribal identification card or naturalization documents. This even applies to voters who must re-register simply because they moved across county lines.

This measure is at least as damaging as many of the voter identification laws being passed and contemplated across the country. This stops someone from being part of the process before they’ve even gotten to square one. As I have repeatedly discussed with respect to ID laws, many voters are unlikely to have the required documentation and efforts to obtain the documentation will take time and money, therefore amounting to an unconstitutional poll tax.

Ironically, it has proven to be eligible voters who have been caught in the snare of this act. Last year in Maricopa County, home to Phoenix, more than 10,000 people trying to register were rejected for being unable to prove their citizenship. A spokeswoman for the recorder’s office said most are probably U.S. citizens whose married names differ from the ones on their birth certificates or who have lost documentation. In Pima County, home to Tucson, 60 percent of those who tried to register initially could not. The elections chief said that all appeared to be U.S. citizens, but many had moved to Arizona recently and couldn’t get their birth certificates or passports.

Moreover, Prop 200 is based on the idea that noncitizens are coming to the polling place and voting illegally. The premise is false. There is no evidence of any number of immigrants knowingly voting in the past in Arizona, and certainly it would seem unlikely when the last thing immigrants want to do in these times is draw official attention to themselves.

Finally, as the lawsuit persuasively argues, the measure also makes it virtually impossible for groups to conduct voter registration drives in Arizona. How many people go to the supermarket with their birth certificate?

The recent decision in Indiana upholding its draconian ID bill and the intolerance toward immigrants being displayed right now makes me worry about how the Arizona courts will respond. They upheld the Proposition in another context once before. But anyone who cares about the right to vote—for qualified, U.S. citizens—should hope that the law is struck down as the unconstitutional and anti-democratic measure it is.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate