Arizona Agrees to Simplify Voter Registration

PHOENIX (CN) — Arizona voters will no longer have two registration forms — one for federal elections, one for state — after the state settled a lawsuit Monday over a system two nonprofits called a confusing burden on voters.

In a federal consent decree, Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan agreed to eliminate the dual-form registration system, while still requiring proof of citizenship for state elections, which is not required for federal elections.

The state will cross-check registrations with driver’s license records to determine citizenship, eliminating for most voters any need to prove citizenship for state elections.

“Secretary Reagan’s agreement to these commonsense changes is an affirmation that democracy works best when all citizens can vote without barriers,” Danielle Lang, who represented the League of United Latin American Citizens and the Arizona Students’ Association, said in a statement.

Federal elections require only a signature on a form stating one is a citizen, but Arizona state elections require documentary proof, such as a birth certificate, driver’s license or Social Security card.

Previously, voters who did not prove citizenship when they registered were allowed to vote only in federal elections, though the state could easily confirm their citizenship via driver’s license records it already had. Now one form will register voters for state and federal elections, though they must still prove citizenship either with documents or driver’s license records.

Shayna Stevens, the outgoing executive director of the plaintiff Arizona Students’ Association, is glad to see the unnecessary barrier to student voting gone.

“For lawmakers to hear the student voice, students must have easy access to voting,” she said in a statement. “We are thrilled that students will no longer be required to fill out duplicate forms or dig up their original birth certificates and passports, which made access to the ballot difficult for no reason.”

In their November 2017 lawsuit, LULAC and the Arizona Students’ Association claimed that more than 26,000 voters had been rejected in Maricopa County alone, where more than half of Arizona’s 7 million residents live. Fewer than 17 percent of voters rejected for lack of citizenship proof successfully reregister, because the system is confusing and difficult to maneuver, the plaintiffs said. Phoenix, the state capital, is the seat of Maricopa County.

Luis Vera Jr., who also represents the LULAC in the lawsuit, said in November that the intent of Arizona’s labyrinthine registration system is clear: to confuse mostly uneducated, low-income minorities.

“This is just another form of voter discrimination, because they know people get confused, and they know that in Arizona the vast majority of those people are going to be Latino,” he said.

Although Lang has acknowledged a “nationwide trend” toward using voter registration policies and processes to discriminate, she said that was not a claim in this lawsuit.

The state agreed to implement the new rules within 30 days and to tell all county voting officials to accept one form for all elections.

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