A group of Hispanic activists filed a lawsuit in federal court Tuesday seeking to abolish specific identification requirements needed to vote in Arizona, saying the measures are unfair and discriminatory.
Officials representing the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund asked a federal judge to void some of the provisions in Proposition 200 that require state officials to reject voter applications without proof of citizenship.
Standing outside the U.S. District Court in downtown Phoenix, they attacked the requirements as a modern version of the voter tax, which was used 100 years ago by Southern states to keep minorities from voting.
“By requiring people to have to purchase forms of identification, whether it’s a birth certificate or a driver’s license, whether it’s to register to vote or also to appear and vote in person on election day, is a modern-day poll tax,” said Nina Perales, an attorney for the group.
Perales believes Hispanics are hit hardest because they are less likely to carry the types of identification required by the state law. Still, she said, the measure affects all races.
In 2004, voters approved Proposition 200 denying illegal immigrants certain public benefits such as subsidized child care and requiring proof of citizenship to vote. It also changed state laws to require people to show identification before voting at the polls.
Types of identification needed to vote include an Arizona drivers license, a U.S. passport, a U.S. birth certificate, U.S. naturalization documents or a Bureau of Indian Affairs card number. At the polls, voters must show a photo ID with name, address or two different forms of identification.
In the lawsuit, the activists also challenged Secretary of State Jan Brewer’s decision to block registration of those using a federal voter registration form, which does not require proof of citizenship.
Kevin Tyne, the deputy secretary of state, said states are allowed to go above and beyond federal requirements when it comes to voter registration.
“We are following and implementing that law as it was enacted by voters of the state of Arizona,” Tyne said Tuesday afternoon.
The suit isn’t the first time the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund has challenged the state regarding Proposition 200. Shortly after the measure was passed two years ago, the group tried to overturn it on the grounds that it wrongly denied benefits to legal immigrants.
A federal judge later threw out the case, saying there was no evidence that would happen.