An eleventh-hour federal appeals court ruling to suspend the voting provisions of Proposition 200 has created uncertainty about whether registration forms and early voting ballots filled out since Friday will have to be thrown out.
“We don’t believe so, but we don’t know,” Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne said.
The ruling also has left officials uncertain about which set of voting rules will apply on Election Day.
“All we know is that the court has issued the restraining order, and that’s what we’re working under now,” Osborne said.
Before Thursday’s ruling by two 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges, election work- ers statewide had required voters to provide proof of citizenship when registering and proof of identification at the polls.
But the judges suspended those rules just as Monday’s registration deadline was approaching and early voting began.
The stricter rules became law in 2004, when voters approved Prop. 200 by a 56 percent majority, with supporters citing concerns that illegal immigrants were being allowed to vote.
But critics of the measure have maintained that it unfairly targets legal residents who are ethnic minorities, along with the poor, elderly and disabled.
Thursday’s ruling is being appealed by Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard and could be reversed before the Nov. 7 general election by either the full 9th Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court. But questions remain about what a higher court reversal would mean for those who registered while the Prop. 200 rules were on hold.
David Rosenbaum, a Phoenix attorney who sought the federal injunction suspending the rules on behalf of a coalition of Prop. 200 opponents, said the court should allow the registration forms and ballots collected without legal documentation even if the injunction is overturned.
“I would have to assume that those registrations would count — I mean, it’s only logical,” said Rosenbaum, whose clients include the Intertribal Council of Arizona, the League of Women Voters of Arizona, the League of United Latin American Citizens and the Arizona Advocacy Network.
However, Tonia Tunnell, Maricopa County’s assistant elections director, said that’s a decision the court would have to make.
Tunnell, responsible for training the 7,000 election workers who will operate polling stations in Maricopa County, is teaching from two rule books — one with Prop. 200 requirements and the other without — because the county doesn’t know yet which requirements will be in effect on election day.
If the courts opt not to review the appellate decision, voters won’t be asked for proof of identification before casting a ballot, even though such proof was required during the primaries.
“At this point, this is what we’re doing,” Tunnell said, “but depending on what happens . . .”
Community organizations such as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now and the Arizona Students Association collected hundreds of voter registration forms Monday during registration drives focused in part on residents turned away by the county before the federal injunction was issued.
Serena Unrein of the Arizona Students Association said one in three of the nearly 800 students that the group registered Monday did not possess the proper identification to register under Prop. 200.
But Unrein, one of several association members who signed up students at Arizona state University’s main and satellite campuses, said lack of citizenship documentation wasn’t the only reason many students hadn’t registered earlier.
“It seems like some people weren’t aware that today was the deadline,” she said.