Puma Press

Law will deny some voters state ballots


AP Photo byMatt York

Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett announces his candidacy for Governor, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013, in downtown Phoenix.

Arizonans who used federal voter registration forms without providing proof of U.S. citizenship could be blocked from signing petitions and voting for candidates in state and local races, increasing state elections’ costs.

In 2004, Arizona voters approved the Arizona Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act, requiring voters to provide evidence of U.S. citizenship when registering to vote. Federal registration forms only require potential voters to claim that they are citizens under penalty of perjury, no further evidence is required. This meant that a person could complete a federal voter registration form without meeting the higher standard set by the state, and that the Act was sure to be contested in court.

On June 17th, 2013, the Supreme Court decided 7-2 that Arizona must accept the “Federal Form” to qualify federal electors, ruling that the 1993 National Voter Registration Act superseded state registration laws requiring proof of citizenship.
Following the Supreme Court decision, Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett asked Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne to clarify how law would apply to state elections. Though Arizona would have to accept the federal form for federal elections, state elections were a different matter.

On Oct. 7th, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne sent an opinion stating that “the only way to give effect to Proposition 200’s evidence-of-citizenship requirement is to establish separate voter rolls.” The opinion concludes that “those registering only with the federal form, which does not include evidence of citizenship, should not vote in state elections or sign petitions.”

The result will be a tiered or bifurcated ballot, which will create a restricted class of voters who registered using the federal form without providing further proof of citizenship to the state. Restricted voters will be blocked from voting in state elections or signing petitions. They will only be allowed to vote for federal candidates starting in the 2014 election.

According to Matthew Roberts, director of communications at the Office of the Secretary of State, fewer than 2000 of Arizona’s 3.2 million voters are currently set to receive ballots with only federal candidates.

A report from The Pew Charitable Trusts states that Election officials estimate the cost of a tiered election for Maricopa County in 2014 would likely exceed $250,000 and would include “Sending an informational letter to the nearly 1,000 county voters affected by the decision.”

Arizona’s 2014 state election will feature Tom Horne running for a second term as attorney general, and Ken Bennett running for governor.

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