News Release

Voting-Rights Activists Working to Overcome ID Barriers in Arizona


“On Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that Arizona’s new voter ID laws — requiring photo IDs and proof of citizenship — will remain in place for the November 7 elections,” says Alex Keyssar, a professor at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. “Although the Supremes took no position on the legal issues that will ultimately determine whether Arizona’s law is constitutional, they overturned an injunction issued by a lower court that would have suspended the law for the current election.”

The director of the Arizona Advocacy Network, Linda Brown, said today: “By reinstating the ID requirements, the Supreme Court has challenged us to document the extent of disenfranchisement that occurs at the polls on November 7. We now have less than two weeks to put together a volunteer statewide poll-monitoring program. … We are asking the courts to allow our volunteers to be credentialed as non-partisan monitors inside the polling places.”

The president of the League of Women Voters of Arizona, Bonnie Saunders, said today: “We believe that as citizens we need to act now in order to stop disenfranchisement.”

Keyssar is the Stirling Professor of History and Social Policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and the author of the book The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States. He said: “The rationale for such laws is that they are needed to prevent fraud — although almost nowhere have the laws’ sponsors been able to document the existence of significant fraud occurring because non-legal voters have pretended to be, or impersonated, legal voters. (A Minnesota study found that there were 32 non-citizens registered to vote, out of more than 3 million.) … What’s happening here is an effort to give strict (and perhaps unnecessarily strict) procedural regulations the same moral authority as laws — such as the Voting Rights Act — that support a fundamental democratic value: the right to vote. It’s a clever rhetorical move — and one that should make our democratic alarm bells go off.”
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Brown is the director of the Arizona Advocacy Network. She said today: “Under the guise of preventing undocumented immigrants from voting, the proponents of this law have disenfranchised tens of thousands of legitimate Arizona voters. … For example many senior citizens do not drive and do not have valid driver’s licenses. Many women have birth certificates with their maiden names, which can cause problems. Many elderly people do not have birth certificates. Some were born at home! Very few people have passports. Obtaining any of these documents requires time, effort and money.”
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Saunders is the president of the League of Women Voters of Arizona. She said today: “We see the new requirement as a form of poll tax. The new requirement means that you have to buy something in order to vote [you have to buy these documents which cost money]. In the March primary, in one county, 300 people were turned away because they could not produce the necessary documents — 75 percent of those who were turned away did not return to verify their citizenship and most of them were women over the age of 65.”

Saunders added: “There are very few documented instances of voter fraud by non-citizens, perhaps less than 10 in the past decade in Arizona. However, this last summer and fall about 20,000 people were dropped from the voter rolls because they could not produce the required documents. I do not think Arizona voters meant to disenfranchise citizens, but this is what’s happening right now. I’m a historian and I see similarities with the period after the Civil War when the black people first won the right to vote and then lost it through state laws that put impediments on their right to vote. … The Supreme Court has not yet ruled on the merits of the case….”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167