DOJ sues Arizona over proof of citizenship voter law

AP Photo/Matt York
Voters deliver their ballot to a polling station in Tempe, Ariz., Nov. 3, 2020.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is suing the state of Arizona, seeking to block a law that would force residents to provide proof of citizenship in order to vote in federal elections.

The DOJ argues the requirement, part of H.B. 2492 slated to take effect in January, is “a textbook violation of the National Voter Registration Act [NVRA].”

The suit argues the requirement to provide proof of citizenship would violate not just the 1993 law addressing voter registration but also the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“For nearly three decades, the National Voter Registration Act has helped to move states in the right direction by eliminating unnecessary requirements that have historically made it harder for eligible voters to access the registration rolls. Arizona has passed a law that turns the clock back on progress by imposing unlawful and unnecessary requirements that would block eligible voters from the registration rolls for certain federal elections,” Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, said in a statement.

The Arizona law could remove tens of thousands of people from voting rolls. 

The state already has a bifurcated system after a 2004 ballot measure allowed Arizona officials to ask for proof of citizenship for anyone registering to vote after 2005. 

But the new law would eliminate a provision that grandfathers in those who may have registered to vote decades before that, blocking them from voting in federal elections.

Data provided by the state indicates there are some 11,600 federal-only voters who have not provided the proof of citizenship necessary to vote in state elections. But NPR estimates show as many as 192,000 voters could be removed from rolls if the new law takes effect.

The DOJ argues the new law also runs afoul of a 2013 Supreme Court ruling stemming from another Arizona suit, noting that the state can’t impose the proof of citizenship requirement on those who register to vote using the federal form.

“Arizona is a repeat offender when it comes to attempts to make it harder to register to vote,” Clarke said in a call with reporters.

“Arizona’s own nonpartisan legislative council warns legislators that the NVRA preempts HB 2492’s documentary proof of citizenship requirements for applicants completing the federal form who seek to vote in federal elections. … Nonetheless, the legislature ignored these warnings and enacted HB 2492 anyway,” she added.

When Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) signed the law in March, he said it was necessary for “prohibiting any attempt to illegally cast a vote.”

Tags Arizona civil rights Justice Department Kristen Clarke voter rights voting laws
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