John Armor: One Cheer for the Ninth Circuit On Arizona's Honest-Voter Law


ACRU Staff


April 24, 2007

It is not very often that the American Civil Rights Union has kind words for the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. Nor does the US Supreme Court have many kind words for them, either. That Court reverses decisions of that Circuit more than all other Circuits combined.

But every rule has its exceptions. And a unanimous decision of a panel of the Ninth Circuit upholding an Arizona law on voter IDs causes us to say, “One cheer for the Ninth Circuit.”

A widely reported AP story entitled, “Ruling lets Arizona require proof of citizenship of voters,” tells part of the story. A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals left standing the federal trial judge’s decision that Arizona could require all new voters to show proof of citizenship, before being allowed to register to vote.

This is the second half of Arizona’s citizen initiative to be reviewed by the Ninth Circuit. The first half, that voters had to present IDs in order to vote, was temporarily struck down by the Ninth Circuit last fall, just prior to the election. On an emergency basis, the US Supreme Court unanimously reversed that decision.

Did the Ninth Circuit learn a lesson? Probably not, because dozens of prior reversals have done little to change its behavior. The plaintiffs and their ACLU attorneys will probably ask the whole Ninth Circuit to reverse its panel decision. That will probably be denied, and the Supreme Court will refuse review. The case will then go back to Phoenix for trial in US District Court.

The idea that voters in American elections should be American citizens, was not such an outlandish idea to the people of Arizona, who approved this law. It was not outlandish to the trial judge. And now, finally, it is not outlandish in the Ninth Circuit. Common sense has reared its ugly head in the Circuit in San Francisco.

Precisely because something like this happens so seldom, let’s hear it: One cheer for the Ninth Circuit….




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