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Voter registration suit in Arizona ends with settlement

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Voter registration suit in Arizona ends with settlement

  • Arizona and nonprofit groups reached a settlement to provide more effective voter registration services.
    Erik Hersman/FlickrArizona and nonprofit groups reached a settlement to provide more effective voter registration services.

Arizona agreed Monday to a settlement to provide more effective voter registration services to people who move so they do not suddenly find themselves bumped from the voter rolls.

The League of Women Voters of Arizona, Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, and Promise Arizona sued the state in August 2018, claiming that it was violating the National Voter Registration Act by failing to use motor vehicle records to update voter registration information. 

On Monday, the state agreed to link Department of Transportation and voter registration systems.

“With this agreement, all qualified voters in Arizona can be certain that their address for voter registration will be updated when they change their address through the Motor Vehicle Department,” said Robyn Prud’homme-Bauer, former co-president of the League of Women Voters of Arizona.

Between 2000 and 2010, 70% of Arizona residents moved, according to the nonprofits’ lawsuit. More than 900,000 people moved in 2016 and more than 14,000 ballots were because of incorrect addresses.

Most of those voters were low-income residents, who move more often than more affluent people, the lawsuit claimed.

The agreement is a victory for the state’s most vulnerable voters, according to Petra Falcon, executive director of Promise Arizona.

“For too long, residents were not given appropriate notification that simple transactions would terminate their voting privileges. This not only created hardship for our community members, but it dismissed the hard work of community groups working hard to register Arizona voters,” she said.

The state also agreed Monday to add voter registration information to paper driver’s license applications, improve access to voter registration information in languages other than English, and ensure that residents get voter registration information when changing an address at a Motor Vehicle Division office.

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who took office Jan. 7 and was not named in the lawsuit, called the agreement good news for the state.

“We take concerns regarding access to voter registration seriously and made it a priority to settle this lawsuit as quickly and responsibly as possible,” Hobbs  said in an emailed statement. “There was no need to drag out the litigation at taxpayer expense.”

The change could have widespread impact. In September 2018, staff members of the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office testified that as many as 384,000 Arizonans were likely registered to vote at a wrong address as a result of the state’s registration system.

The nonprofits will keep an eye on the state in the coming months to ensure the agreed-upon changes happen, said Hector Sanchez Barba, executive director of Mi Familia Vota.

“While we are pleased that the Secretary of State and ADOT will comply with an array of actions that will encourage civic participation, we will remain vigilant to ensure that our rights are protected and nothing of this sort happens again,” Sanchez Barba said

The plaintiffs are represented by Demos, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arizona, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP.

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