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Arizona sued for demanding proof of citizenship from voters

Arizona sued for demanding proof of citizenship from voters

Opponents of the law say it unconstitutionally disenfranchises voters who don't have driver's licenses or Social Security cards

  • Erik Hersman/CC BY 2.0

An immigrant rights advocacy group sued Arizona on Thursday to block a new law requiring individuals to provide proof of citizenship when they register to vote.

House Bill 2492 passed the Republican-controlled Legislature down party lines last week and Governor Doug Ducey, a Republican, signed the bill into law Wednesday. He did so despite pleas from county elections officials and advocacy groups claiming the law would burden the courts.

Mi Familia Vota, a national voting rights group, sued Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, state Attorney General Mark Brnovich and all of the state’s county recorders in federal court Thursday. The group claims the proof of citizenship “restriction” comes on the heels of Republican-led conspiracy theories claiming undocumented voters or other types of fraud are inundating state elections.

“HB 2492 is merely the latest in a string of baseless allegations of fraud that have led to a host of pernicious efforts in Arizona to target early voting by mail,” the group says in its complaint.

Mi Familia Vota claims the law will require tens of thousands of voters to “jump through unnecessary hoops,” thus disenfranchising some who elect not to vote.

According to the Secretary of State’s Office, 10,510 active voters in Arizona do not have a driver’s license or the last four of their social security numbers on file as documented proof of citizenship.

State Representative Jake Hoffman, a Republican from Queen Creek, said he initiated the bill based on what he saw as an increase in immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally casting ballots.

“In 2018, there were only 1,700 individuals who didn’t have documentary proof of citizenship on file,” Hoffman said during a March legislative committee. “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.”

Ducey says the law will stop noncitizens from voting in Arizona elections.

“Federal law prohibits noncitizens from voting in federal elections,” Ducey said in a statement. “Arizona law prohibits noncitizens from voting for all state and local offices, and requires proof of citizenship. HB 2492 provides clarity to Arizona law on how officials process federal form voter registration applications that lack evidence of citizenship.”

The bill allows voters 30 days from registration to provide proof of citizenship.

The lead defendant, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, has been vocal in her opposition to the bill. Her office sent a letter to Ducey last week seeking his veto, claiming the bill was unconstitutional and could create a slew of litigation for various actors. 

“The bill violates clearly-settled federal law and, if signed, will lead to costly litigation,” Hobbs, a Democrat, wrote. “What’s more, the bill creates new criminal penalties aimed at elections officials, sets arbitrary rules that will lead to voter confusion and dictates non-discretionary enforcement requirements for prosecutors.”

Mi Familia Vota also claims the law will lead to prosecutions and investigations of voters as it requires the attorney general to “investigate and potentially prosecute voters who registered without providing proof of citizenship.”

The conservative push to require proof of citizenship in voting is a legal battle long fought in the state.

In 2004, Arizona voters passed an initiative to require voters to prove citizenship upon registration. The initiative, Proposition 200, was a challenge to the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. Under the act, voters are only required to affirm their citizenship under the perjury of law.

Nearly a decade later, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7 to 2 that the act superseded the proposition’s ID requirement.

Hobbs’ office responded to the suit by stating it is consulting with counsel and its position on the bill is referenced in Hobbs’ letter urging a veto. The attorney general’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.

Mi Familia Vota is represented the firm Herrera Arellano LLP of Phoenix.

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