Hispanic rights group wants to
nullify Prop 200
CAPITOL MEDIA SERVICES
Jan. 13, 2005
By Howard Fischer
PHOENIX - A Hispanic rights group
is asking federal officials to veto changes in
election laws approved in November by Arizona
The Mexican American Legal
Defense and Education Fund contends that
requirements for identification to register and
vote will harm the ability of the state's Latino
community to exercise its constitutional rights.
MALDEF attorney Steven Reyes said that makes the
provisions of Proposition 200 illegal violations
of the federal Voting Rights Act.
Andrea Esquer, spokeswoman for
the state Attorney General's Office, said her
agency "will defend" the changes as legal.
Proposition 200 requires county
election officials to reject any voter
registration which is not accompanied by
"satisfactory evidence of United States
That can include an Arizona
driver's license issued after Oct. 1, 1996, the
day the state began requiring proof of legal
residency for licenses. Other acceptable
documents include birth certificates, passports
and tribal ID cards.
Also acceptable are
naturalization documents, or at least the number
of the naturalization certificate. But in the
latter case, the person cannot vote until that
number is verified with federal officials.
Anyone showing up to vote has to
show either one photo ID or two other documents
with the person's name and address.
MALDEF is taking advantage of the
fact that Arizona, along with some Southern
States, is required to prove to the U.S.
Department of Justice that any changes in voting
laws do not adversely affect minority voting
Reyes said the identification
requirements will put an end to drives where
individuals can be certified to go into
communities and register voters. He said that
will harm Latino communities which, until now,
have managed a sharp increase in voter
registration, resulting in a greater disparity
between Anglos and Hispanics.
He also said the identification
requirements are discriminatory. For example,
Reyes said, Hispanics are only half as like to
have vehicles -- and therefore, licenses -- as
Anglos; native Americans only a quarter of that.
On top of that, Reyes said the
requirement effectively is an illegal poll tax,
as there is a fee to get a license, a passport
or even a copy of a birth certificate.
He said it is irrelevant that
people might need a driver's license to rent a
video, an argument made by Kathy McKee, the
organizer of the Proposition 200 campaign.
"Apparently, McKee is unaware
that, for many in this state, and country,
owning a VCR or DVD player and renting videos
are luxuries," Reyes wrote. He said census
statistics show minority households are more
likely to have lower incomes.