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(by Michael Muskal, Los Angeles Times) – A federal judge has ruled that Kansas and Arizona should be allowed to require voters to provide evidence of U.S. citizenship, in a case closely watched by both sides dealing with the question of voter eligibility.
U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren in Wichita, Kan., ruled that the U.S. Election Assistance Commission had no legal authority to deny requests from the two states to add the citizenship requirement. In the ruling, released Wednesday, he ordered the commission to revise the national form immediately.
Kansas and Arizona require new voters to provide a birth certificate, passport or other documentation to prove U.S. citizenship. The federal registration form, however, requires only that prospective voters sign a statement declaring they are citizens. The different requirements opened the possibility that residents of those states would have to register twice, using separate voter registration forms, if they wanted to vote in both state and federal elections.
The fight also has political overtones. Republicans have generally argued in favor of tougher voting requirements [they want people voting to show identification to prove their identity and that they are eligible to vote (U.S. citizen)], contending they prevent fraud. Democrats oppose the state standards, which they say can block their voters – including the young and the poor – from registering to vote.
The top election officials, Kris Kobach of Kansas and Ken Bennett of Arizona, had sued to force the federal agency to include proof of citizenship. Both are considered conservative Republicans.
“This is a huge victory for the states of Kansas and Arizona,” Kobach said in a prepared statement emailed to reporters. “They have successfully protected our sovereign right to set and enforce the qualifications for registering to vote. We have now paved the way for all 50 states to protect their voter rolls and ensure that only U.S. citizens can vote.”
“Today’s decision is an important victory for the people of Arizona against the Obama administration, assuring that only Arizona residents and not illegals vote in Arizona elections,” Arizona Atty. Gen. Tom Horne said in a statement.
Election Assistance Commission spokesman Bryan Whitener said in an email that the ruling is “under review.”
The ruling can be appealed to the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Denver.
Melgren ruled that the U.S. Constitution gives states the power to set voter qualifications, and Congress has not preempted it. The case arose after the U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down part of Arizona’s 2004 proof-of-citizenship law. The Kansas voter ID law took effect last year.
Los Angeles Times. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from latimes.com.
1. a) What new voter identification requirements were recently implemented in Kansas and Arizona?
b) How does the federal voter registration form differ?
2. How did U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren rule on the states’ challenge to the U.S. Election Commission’s denial of the states identification rules? Be specific.
3. a) What is the purpose of the U.S. Election Commission, which was created in 2002 through the HAVA law?
b) What did Judge Melgren order the Election Assistance Commission to do?
4. a) According to the LA Times reporter, for what reasons do Republicans support and Democrats oppose voter identification requirements?
b) With which position do you agree? Explain your answer.
5. Name some places/instances when identification is required from all individuals.
6. a) What are the eligibility requirements for voing in the U.S.?
b) What are the specific/additional regulations for registration in your state?
7. What do you think: should voters be required to prove their identity (that they are who they say they are) and that they are a U.S. citizen? Why or why not?
The goals of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA):
- replace punchcard and lever-based voting systems;
- create the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to assist in the administration of Federal elections
- establish minimum election administration standards
HAVA mandates that all states and localities upgrade many aspects of their election procedures, including their voting machines, registration processes and poll worker training.
The specifics of implementation have been left up to each state, which allows for varying interpretations of the Federal law. (from wikipedia)
The Election Assistance Commission (EAC) is an independent agency of the federal government created by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). The Commission serves as a national clearinghouse and resource of information regarding election administration. It is charged with administering payments to states and developing guidance to meet HAVA requirements, adopting voluntary voting system guidelines, and accrediting voting system test laboratories and certifying voting equipment. It is also charged with developing and maintaining a national mail voter registration form. (from wikipedia)
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