Arizona Agrees to Make Amends to Disenfranchised Voters

TUCSON, Ariz. (CN) – About 300,000 potential voters in Arizona who weren’t offered a required chance to register to vote will get that chance, thanks to an agreement among state agencies and non-profit groups announced on Thursday.

The affected voters will get a letter in English and Spanish explaining that they should have been offered a chance to vote when they contacted Arizona’s Department of Economic Security or the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, according to a news release from the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented Mi Familia Vota, Promise Arizona and the League of Women Voters of Arizona in negotiating the agreement, according to an ACLU news release.

“We are pleased, for our community’s sake, that these agencies have agreed to work with us and remedy the legal violations that hinder people’s right to vote. We will monitor their efforts and ensure that they correct all of their errors,” said Ben Monterroso, executive director of Mi Familia Vota.

The agreement stems from a November 2017 letter the non-profits sent to the Arizona Department of Transportation, Department of Economic Security, and Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, which is Arizona’s healthcare program for low-income residents, as well as Secretary of State Michelle Reagan. The non-profits signaled their intent to sue over violations of the National Voter Registration Act.

Some state agencies independently agreed to come into compliance with the law, but Reagan didn’t, so the non-profits sued her earlier this month, said Stuart Naifeh, senior counsel for public policy group Demos, who also signed the recent agreement.

The letter, which will include voter registration forms, is an interim measure to ensure people can register before November’s election. The state agencies have agreed to keep working on internal procedures and documents to ensure that applicants get a chance to register. The focus of this agreement is public assistance agencies, Naifeh said.

“They’re working with us going forward to address all of the problems,” he said.

The Arizona Department of Transportation has agreed to prepare internal documents and forms, but the agreement does not affect voter registration policies at the department’s motor vehicle division, which is governed by the Secretary of State’s office and is supposed to offer voter registration to people who come in for services.

“Without the secretary of state onboard, we can’t really do a lot with MVD,” Naifeh said.

Petra Falcon, executive director of Promise Arizona, one of the groups that sued Reagan, said even more people were shut out by MVD failures than the agencies that have agreed to change their policies.

“While the Arizona Secretary of State makes excuses as to why she can’t send a similar letter to at least 500,000 Arizonans who may have been denied their voting rights, these agencies are taking an active step to protect our fundamental right to vote,” Falcon said.

The state agencies will begin distributing voter registration applications to everyone who comes to an agency office and applies, recertifies, or renews their public assistance or changes their address, unless the client declines to register to vote in writing, the ACLU said.

In addition, the state’s department of transportation has agreed to translate its driver’s license application into Spanish, and Spanish forms will be available in MVD offices in Maricopa, Pima, Santa Cruz, and Yuma counties, which are required under federal law to provide forms in Spanish.

The attorney representing the state agencies in the agreement did not immediately return an emailed request for comment Thursday evening after business hours.

 

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