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Arizona GOP pushes bills to require voters prove citizenship

Arizona Republicans want prospective voters to show an ID at registration. Undocumented voters could be prosecuted.

The Republican-controlled Arizona House voted Monday to amend and advance election reform bills that would require voters to furnish proof of citizenship upon registration and prohibit election officials from being on hand counting teams.

House Bill 2492 would require all potential voters in Arizona to present an ID at registration or within 30 days of registering to vote. Democrats see the bills as a voter suppression effort, citing previous Supreme Court rulings that similar laws are illegal.

"We've seen this in other states, and we've seen this here in Arizona," said state Representative Lorenzo Sierra, D-Avondale. "This bill, if we pass this here today, is not going anywhere. It's going to end up in the Supreme Court. And they're going to bat it back right at us like they've done time and time again."

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7 to 2 that the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 superseded Arizona's Proposition 200's ID requirement. Voters passed the initiative in 2004.

But the high court conceded states could prevent someone from registering based on proof of citizenship. HB 2492's sponsor, state Representative Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, pointed to what he claims is a concerning trend in voting integrity.

"In 2018, there were only 1,700 individuals who didn't have documentary proof of citizenship on file," Hoffman said. "In 2020, there were almost 12,000. So clearly, this is a trend that is increasing. This bill ensures that there is maximum flexibility to provide documentary proof of citizenship, but we don't want foreign interference in our elections."

Previous bill versions had shorter periods of time for individuals to provide proof of citizenship, drawing criticism from some Arizona Democrats. The amended bill aimed to address some of those concerns.

"The applicant has 30 days to return the notice with satisfactory evidence of citizenship or the applicant will not be qualified to vote in a presidential election or by mail with an early ballot in any election," the amended bill states.

With HB 2492, undocumented individuals who vote in the election could face severe penalties. The bill requires the state attorney general to "prosecute individuals who are found to not be United States citizens."

The House also passed amendments to House Bills 2780 and 2710.

Amendments to HB 2780 would prevent election officials from being on hand-count teams and establish an electronic voter registration profile that could not be used commercially.

The amendments to HB 2710 would require ballots to be tagged with computerized digital numbers to ensure they are accurately numbered instead of manually numbered. Additionally, it would ensure ballots aren't separated by precinct if they are part of early provisional voting. However, all votes will be digitally sorted by precinct.

Democrats see the new oversight and requirements as burdens to an already complicated cycle.

"It sounds like we once again expect work to be done magically," said state Representative Mitzi Epstein, D-Tempe. "And I think that people need to be paid for their work. This will actually require some technology and some work. And then enforcing it will definitely require work as well. So, it's curious that there really doesn't seem to be a lot of thought put into how that work will be done."

Election reform has become a vital issue for Arizona Republicans who claim integrity concerns following the 2020 presidential election of Joe Biden.

The bills and amendments come months after Arizona Republicans contracted the firm Cyber Ninjas to audit the election results. Cyber Ninjas found Biden was lawfully elected but identified what it considered to be 53,304 questionable ballots. Maricopa County investigated the authenticity of those ballots and this month found only 37 may have been illegally cast.

All amendments Monday passed with verbal majority "ayes." The bills will move forward as amended for final House reads before they head to the Senate.

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Election reform has become a vital issue for Arizona Republicans who claim integrity concerns following the 2020 presidential election of Joe Biden.

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