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In challenge to legal precedent, Arizona Republicans move to add ID check in federal elections

Arizona Republicans want to pass a bill that may test the current Supreme Court's waters if adopted into law.

PHOENIX (CN) — An Arizona House committee voted Wednesday to advance an election reform bill that would request a change to the federal elections voting form with an ID verification requirement.

Senate Bill 1013, which passed through the Senate in February, directs the secretary of state to submit a request to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to include specific state instructions that voters must prove citizenship on the federal voter registration form.

Currently, the form requires only an attestation of citizenship under penalty of perjury.

Appearing Wednesday before the House Government and Elections Committee, the bill's sponsor, state Senator Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, referenced Justice Anthony Scalia's opinion in the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court case of Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona. In that case, the high court ruled 7-2 that the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 superseded Arizona's Proposition 200, which would have required proof of citizenship when voting. Voters passed the initiative in 2004.

"A state may request that the EAC alter the federal form to include information the state deems necessary to determine eligibility,” Scalia wrote for the majority. "And may challenge the EAC's rejection of that request in a suit under the Administrative Procedure Act."

Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented. Then-Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said he was disappointed in the ruling but promised to pursue Scalia's guidance of petitioning the Election Assistance Commission.

"The court has set forth a pathway to victory, and my expectation is that we will pursue it and that we will ultimately be victorious," Horne told Fox News following the decision.

Fast-forward nearly a decade, and Townsend's bill would do exactly that if passed and signed into law.

"Scalia himself said in his opinion that Arizona does have the right to require a means to determine who is voting and that they are eligible to vote," Townsend said. "The entity that's responsible for our voter registration forms is the Election Assistance Commission. He recommended that we petition the EAC and ask them to put onto our forms a means to be able to authenticate the voter.”

She added: "Tom Horne was the attorney general when this was being addressed. He said Arizona will ask the EAC and we will move forward and we will try to get this fixed. And that has not happened to date. So, what I'm asking you to do is to approve this bill that compels the secretary of state to ask the EAC."

Democrats and lobbyists argued courts have thoroughly rejected the legality of amending the federal forms, pointing to the case League of Women Voters of the United States v. Harrington in D.C. federal court.

"We do have an updated federal court ruling, this September, that the EAC violated federal law in 2016 when they did allow three states, Alabama, Georgia and Kansas, to require this exact documentary proof of citizenship," said state Representative Kelli Butler, D-Phoenix. "So, the federal court has already ruled that they can't do this."

Republicans claimed the D.C. case is an example of court-shopping and are eager to test the waters with legal proceedings.

"We do know that the U.S. Supreme Court is an evolving entity," said committee chair and state Representative John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills. "The Supreme Court today is a lot different than it was in '13 or other periods. And if we get differences between districts, then eventually it goes to the U.S. Supreme Court. And I'd be perfectly happy to have the current court look into this. And I think that's what it's about."

The bill passed the Republican-majority committee 7-6 along party lines. It will be read by the House Rules Committee before being voted on by the full House.

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