Gonzales v. Arizona

October 20, 2009  |  Voting Rights Project

The Lawyers’ Committee and several other legal organizations represented a broad coalition of Arizonans – including the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc. (ITCA), the Hopi Tribe, the League of Women Voters of Arizona (LWVAZ), the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), People for the American Way Foundation (PFAWF), the Arizona Advocacy Network (AzAN), and State Representative Steve Gallardo – in Gonzales v. Arizona, where we have challenged the voting-related provisions of Proposition 200.  Proposition 200 disenfranchises qualified and eligible voters by requiring citizens to present documentary proof of their citizenship status when registering to vote, and further requiring qualified and registered voters to present additional identification at the polling place on Election Day.  

In 2006 the District Court denied our motion for preliminary relief. After the denial, we appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which granted our motion to stay that denial. The case was then appealed to the Supreme Court, which reversed the Ninth Circuit’s decision.

Unfortunately, on August 20, 2008, District Judge Roslyn O. Silver issued an order denying all claims in our challenge to Arizona’s Proposition 200.  The trial had begun on July 9, 2008, and was held over six days; post-trial briefing concluded on July 30.  Immediately before the start of trial the Court denied the defendants’ motions for summary judgment, but did not explain the decision.  The principal claims at trial were that the voter registration and polling place identification requirements established by Proposition 200 are undue burdens on the fundamental right to vote under the Fourteenth Amendment, and that they violateSection 2 of the Voting Rights Act.  The testimony and documentary evidence at trial showed that the registration identification requirement was responsible for the rejection of approximately 31,000 individuals’ registration applications, and that the polling place identification requirement had prevented more than 4,000 registered voters from having their ballots counted.  The Court characterized these as only “modest” burdens, however, which it found were outweighed by the State’s interests in preventing vote fraud and bolstering confidence in the election system.  The Court also found that disparities in the success rates between Latinos and non-Latinos for the registration and polling place identification requirements were not significant and that, despite the State’s history of discrimination and the existence of racially polarized voting, there was no violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. 

The case was appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on January 12, 2009. Our appeal focuses on two issues: (1) whether the proof of citizenship and/or identification requirements constitute a poll tax in violation of the Fourteenth and Twenty-Fourth Amendments and (2) whether Arizona’s refusal to accept the Federal Mail-In Registration Form unless the applicant also provides documentary proof of citizenship violates the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.

Oral argument was held on October 20, 2009. 

Documents and Other Information



Practical Progressive - Official Selection 2008