PHOENIX - A federal appellate court on Thursday blocked enforcement of a 2004 state law requiring Arizona voters to present identification when casting ballots and to submit proof of citizenship when registering to vote.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals without comment granted a motion by critics of the law for an injunction that bars enforcement of the law’s voter identification requirements during the Nov. 7 general election.
It also bars enforcement of a requirement that people produce specified proof of citizenship to register to vote. The deadline to register to vote in the general election is midnight Monday.
State Attorney General Terry Goddard said in a statement he plans to ask the full 9th Circuit Court or the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the decision.
Secretary of State Jan Brewer, who has defended the law as a protection against voter fraud, said she hopes the decision is reversed ‘‘very quickly.’’
‘‘I’m very concerned about the confusion that this potentially will create in the upcoming election, with the retraining of all the poll workers and the re-education of the public so close to Nov. 7,’’ Brewer said.
The 9th Circuit order was issued by two of the San Francisco-based court’s judges. It said the injunction would remain in effect pending the court’s resolution of the plaintiffs’ appeals, a process that lawyers said could take months.
‘‘This order would certainly run past the Nov. 7 general election,’’ said David Rosenbaum, an attorney for the challengers.
The 2004 law, which appeared on that year’s ballot as Proposition 200, requires that voters at polling places produce government-issued picture ID or two pieces of other non-photo identification specified by the law.
The challengers contend the voting provisions would disenfranchise numerous voters, particularly minorities and the elderly, and that requiring voters to acquire and produce identification would be burdensome in time, money and effort. They also contend it hinders voter registration drives.
‘‘The courts ruling will help ensure the fundamental right to vote for tens of thousands of Arizonans who otherwise would have faced unnecessary barriers to full participation in federal and state elections,’’ the challengers said in a statement. ‘‘For those voters who cannot meet its strict and unnecessary requirements, Proposition 200 imposes a 21st century poll tax by requiring that voters purchase acceptable forms of identification.’’
Randy Pullen, the former chairman of Yes on Proposition 200 and currently the Republican Party’s national committeeman for Arizona, blamed the decision on ‘‘activist’’ judges in the 9th Circuit.
‘‘It shows you why it’s so important to have President Bush appointing judges that aren’t going to decide they know more about what the people want than the people do,’’ Pullen said.
Ever since it passed in 2004, Arizona’s voter ID law has been challenged in federal court by numerous groups including the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, the League of Women Voters, the Navajo Nation, the Arizona Civil Liberties Union, the Arizona Advocacy Network and the Mexican-American Legal and Educational Fund.
A U.S. District Court judge in Phoenix on Sept. 11 refused to prohibit election officials from enforcing the registration and polling place identification requirements, and its provisions were enforced one day later during the state’s Sept. 12 primary election.
Other parts of the 2004 law dealt with ineligibility of illegal immigrants to receive
some government services and benefits.
Brewer said the people of Arizona voted overwhelmingly to require identification at the polls. She said the first statewide use of the requirement in the September primary ‘‘went off without a hitch’’ and the decision couldn’t have come at a worse time.
‘‘One million of them voted for it and will be very concerned and alarmed that all of a sudden it has been changed,’’ Brewer said. ‘‘So we have a huge job in front of us .. to work very diligently to see this is overturned as soon as possible and implemented as it was intended by the voters of Arizona.
Associated Press Writers Bob Christie and Chris Kahn contributed to this story.