Gonzalez v. Arizona

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: 04-17-2012
  • Case #: 08-17115
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Ikuta for the Court; Circuit Judges Graber, Clifton, Bybee, Smith, and Murguia; Concurrences by Chief Judge Kozinski and Judge Berzon; Partial Concurrences and Dissents by Circuit Judges Pregerson and Rawlinson
  • Full Text Opinion

The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 preempts a state law requirement that proof of citizenship be presented for voter registration. Under the U.S. Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, a state law may require voters provide identification at the polls in order to vote.

Arizona enacted Proposition 200 to require new voters to produce proof of United States citizenship to register, and require registered voters to show identification to vote at the polls. The Court agreed, by a majority vote of active Ninth Circuit judges, to rehear this case en banc. The Court found the previous judicial panel had accepted an appeal erroneously. The Court overruled prior cases to the extent they held exceptions to the law of the case rule applied to the law of the circuit rule. The Court then considered whether the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) superseded Proposition 200’s proof of citizenship voter registration requirement. The Court declared that, “states have no reserved authority over the domain of federal elections.” The Court derived an approach for analyzing federal enactments which displace state procedures for federal elections. Under this framework, the Court considered Proposition 200 and the NVRA, “as if they comprise[d] a single system of federal election procedures.” The Court, “based on a natural reading of the two laws determined the two statutes […] do not operate harmoniously in a single procedural scheme.” The Court found the NVRA which requires states to, “accept and use” the Federal Form for voter registration, could not operate harmoniously with Proposition 200’s requirement that a Federal Form be rejected if the applicant failed to include proof of United States citizenship. The Court held that the NVRA preempted Proposition 200’s registration provision, “under Congress’s expansive Elections Clause power.” The Court went on to hold that the poll identification requirement of Proposition 200 was not prohibited under section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, was not an unconstitutional poll tax under the Twenty-fourth Amendment, nor was it a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. AFFIRMED in part, REVERSED in part.

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