Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne is praising a Kansas court ruling that he claims will curb the problem of "illegals" voting.
A political victory for Horne and anti-illegal-immigrant crusader Kris Kobach, Kansas' secretary of state, the ruling by U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren in Wichita says that the U.S. Election Assistance Commission overstepped its bounds by preventing the states from adding ID requirements to federal voting-registration forms.
The ruling, which orders the Election Assistance Commission to help Arizona and Kansas implement a voter-ID requirement on federal forms, backs up the intention of a majority of Arizona voters, who in 2004 approved a ballot initiative that required ID at the polls.
Yet Horne's claim of rampant voter fraud by undocumented immigrants has been refuted by election officials.
Though Horne stated in a news release Wednesday that "there's been a media cover-up of the seriousness of voter fraud in Arizona," he's wrong, according to Helen Purcell, Maricopa County Recorder.
Purcell told the press last year that Horne was using inaccurate info to make his case of large numbers of non-citizens voting, and that only a "handful" of cases occur each year.
The extent of the problem may be minimal, but the issue has become quite a dog whistle for conservatives.
Secretary of State Ken Bennett, a conservative Republican running for governor this year, sued the U.S. Election Assistance Commission along with Kobach to force it to add new requirements to federal registration forms in their states.
Their arguments do have one strong point: The "honor system" currently used by federal forms is less-than-adequate to prevent non-citizens from voting. Sam Wercinski of executive director of the Arizona Advocacy Network, which has been fighting Horne's efforts, emphasized the problem inadvertently with quotes to the news media on Wednesday about the ruling:
"They sign under oath," Wercinski said. "In America, does our signature under oath no longer hold any weight?"
Yes -- it holds no weight.
Yet demanding government-issued ID at the polls also disenfranchises some legit voters who for whatever reasons cannot produce proper ID in time to vote. Richard Hasen of the University of California, Irvine, wrote in his election-law blog (as pointed out by the NY Times yesterday) that, "The upshot of this opinion, if it stands on appeal, is that states with Republican legislatures and/or Republican chief election officials are likely to require documentary proof of citizenship for voting, making it harder for Democrats to pursue a relatively simple method of voter registration."
A lawsuit filed by a wide range of advocacy groups against Arizona after the 2004 vote ended up with a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court last year that Arizona could not simply re-write the federal registration form at whim. But the High Court suggested Arizona could press the issue with the Election Assistance Commission -- and that's just what Arizona and Kansas did.
By filing the lawsuit against the EAC in Kansas, Horne apparently intended to avoid an appeal by in the U.S. Ninth Circuit of Appeals, which is often seen as liberal-leaning.
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State election officials still expect an appeal by the EAC, though, and are therefore moving ahead with plans to have a two-tiered voting scheme this year that physically separates state and federal voting at voting locations.
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