A federal judge late Wednesday upheld a 4-year-old state law which requires people to provide proof of citizenship to register to vote and produce certain types of identification before they can cast a ballot.
U.S. District Court Judge Roslyn Silver rejected arguments that the requirements to have certain documents present a financial hardship for some.
She said there was some data showing the law has a slightly harsher impact on Hispanics and American Indians than it does on others. But the judge said the effect of that was so minimal as to be virtually insignificant.
On the other side of the equation, Silver said there was evidence from Maricopa and Pima counties that people who were not citizens had registered to vote. That, she said, entitles the state to impose new requirements.
"Proposition 200 enhances the accuracy of Arizona's voter rolls and ensures that the rights of lawful voters are not debased by unlawfully cast ballots," she wrote.
But Nina Perales, attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said she believes that Silver "came down on the wrong side of the law." Perales said no decision has been made on making an appeal.
The decision, unless overturned, leaves intact key provisions of Proposition 200 approved by voters in 2004.
That law bars those not in this country legally from getting certain benefits. But it also contains the provisions which backers said ensures that only those legally entitled to vote will affect the outcome of elections.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund sued, saying the requirements amount to illegal racial discrimination. The legal papers cited specific claims by individuals about how the law interfered with their right to vote.
Silver, however, said that wasn't the case.
For example, she said, one person has both a naturalization certificate and a U.S. passport, either of which would provide proof of citizenship. And the judge said another person who was denied a ballot because the name on her driver's license did not match voter rolls was able to take care of the problem by having Motor Vehicle Division records updated to reflect her married name.
She also said Supreme Court precedent makes it clear that the inconvenience of having to gather the required documents "does not qualify as a substantial burden on the right to vote."