COURTS & LEGAL

Arizona’s new voting laws that require proof of citizenship are not discriminatory, a US judge rules

Mar 1, 2024, 8:19 PM

FILE: Ballots are counted by Maricopa County Elections Department staff ahead of Tuesdays election ...

FILE: Ballots are counted by Maricopa County Elections Department staff ahead of Tuesdays election on Oct. 31, 2020, in Phoenix, Arizona. Early voting lasted from Oct. 7-30 in Arizona, which had a record number of early voters. (Photo by Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images)

(Photo by Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images)

PHOENIX (AP) — A federal judge is upholding provisions of new Arizona laws that would require counties to verify the status of registered voters who haven’t provided proof of U.S. citizenship and cross-check voter registration information with various government databases.

In a ruling Thursday, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton concluded Arizona legislators did not discriminate when they adopted the laws and the state does have an interest in preventing voter fraud and limiting voting to those individuals eligible to vote.

“Considering the evidence as a whole, the court concludes that Arizona’s interests in preventing non-citizens from voting and promoting public confidence in Arizona’s elections outweighs the limited burden voters might encounter when required to provide (documentary proof of citizenship),” she wrote.

However, Bolton said the requirement for individuals using a state registration form to include their state or country of birth violates a provision of the Civil Rights Act and a section of the National Voter Registration Act. Doing so, she explained, would result in the investigation of only naturalized citizens based on county recorders’ subjective beliefs that a naturalized individual is a non-citizen.

Arizona man targeted by Jan. 6 conspiracy theorists sues Fox News for defamation

The lengthy ruling summarizes testimony from a bench trial in late 2023 at which experts testified about Arizona’s history of voting discrimination. That included literacy tests effectively precluding Native American and Latino voters from participating and voter roll purges in the 1970s and 80s that created barriers for minorities to re-register to vote.

That was the past, the judge wrote, noting there was no evidence presented by the plaintiffs reflecting an intent by lawmakers to suppress voter registrations of members of minority groups or naturalized citizens when they considered the bills in 2022.

The laws were passed amid a wave of proposals that Republicans introduced in the wake of Joe Biden’s 2020 victory in Arizona over Donald Trump.

In an earlier ruling, Bolton blocked a requirement in Arizona law that people who use a federal voter registration form provide additional proof of citizenship if they want to vote for president or use the state’s vote-by-mail system. The judge had ruled those provisions were trumped by a 1993 federal voter registration law.

She also had ruled that a 2018 consent decree prevents Arizona from enforcing its new requirement to reject any state voter registration forms that aren’t accompanied by proof of citizenship. The decree said Arizona may not reject an otherwise valid state voter registration form without proof of citizenship, but rather must register such an applicant for federal elections.

Arizona is required to accept the federal registration form, but anyone who does not provide proof of citizenship is only allowed to vote for president, the U.S. House or Senate. The federal form requires people to swear they are U.S. citizens, but there is no proof requirement.

Judge dismisses Kari Lake’s final claim in election loss for Arizona governor

Federal-only voters have been a subject of political wrangling since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that Arizona cannot require documentary proof of citizenship for people to vote in national elections. The state responded by creating two classes of voters: those who can vote in all races and those who can vote only in federal elections.

After being approved on party-line votes, then-Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed the measures into law.

“Election integrity means counting every lawful vote and prohibiting any attempt to illegally cast a vote,” Ducey wrote in a March 2022 letter when approving one of the proposals.

The laws were challenged by voting rights groups and the U.S. Department of Justice. They argued the new rules would make registering voters more difficult.

“This ruling provides a cautionary note that should discourage officials from considering imposition of restrictive or burdensome proof of citizenship demands or requests for unnecessary information from voters before registering them to vote in federal elections,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue its vigorous enforcement of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) and other federal laws to ensure that eligible voters are able to register and vote in federal elections vote.”

Some also suggested the statutes were an attempt to get the issue back in front of a more conservative Supreme Court.

While supporters said the measures would affect only voters who have not shown proof of citizenship, voting advocates claimed hundreds of thousands of people who haven’t recently updated their voter registration or driver’s license could be affected.

The ruling states that Arizona has required documentary proof of citizenship since 2005, and the new laws supplement that requirement to ensure non-citizens do not register to vote or remain on the voter rolls.

One of the two measures examined by Bolton would require state election officials to cross check registration information with various government databases to try to prove their citizenship and report anyone they can’t find to prosecutors.

“The court finds that though it may occur, non-citizens voting in Arizona is quite rare, and non-citizen voter fraud in Arizona is rarer still,” the ruling states. “But while the voting laws are not likely to meaningfully reduce possible non-citizen voting in Arizona, they could help to prevent non-citizens from registering or voting.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Courts & Legal

FILE (KSL TV)...

Lindsay Aerts

Utah State Board of Education clarifies districts are in charge of bathroom law implementation

The Utah State Board of Education is clarifying that it's up to school districts to decide how they implement a new bathroom law in schools that requires students to use the bathroom of their gender assigned at birth

22 hours ago

WASHINGTON - APRIL 14:  Activists line Wisconsin Avenue during a vigil outside the residence of Vic...

Matthew Barakat, Associated Press

Jury deliberating in Iraq Abu Ghraib prison abuse civil case; contractor casts blame on Army

A lawyer for a military contractor being sued by three survivors of the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq says the plaintiffs are suing the wrong people.

2 days ago

Texts shown during Chad Daybell's jury trial show he and Lori Daybell planned to be together in Haw...

Emily Ashcraft, KSL.com

Texts show Chad and Lori Daybell’s relationship days after her husband’s death

Jurors for Chad Daybell's trial heard testimony on Friday about Lori Daybell's texts from an FBI agent, along with the end of testimony from Lori Daybell's friend, Melanie Gibb.

5 days ago

Crime scene tape. (Getty Images)...

Associated Press

Police to review security outside courthouse hosting Trump’s trial after man sets himself on fire

Police officials say they are reviewing whether to restrict access to a public park outside the courthouse where former President Donald Trump is on trial after a man set himself on fire there.

5 days ago

FILE - Rays of sunlight pierce through the clouds Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023, above homes burned by wi...

Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, Associated Press

Hawaii Supreme Court chides state’s legal moves on water after deadly Maui wildfire

The Hawaii Supreme Court says the state attorney general's office must pay attorney fees for using last year's Maui wildfire tragedy to file a petition in “bad faith” that blamed a state court judge for a lack of water for firefighting.

6 days ago

Chad Daybell stands next to his attorney, John Prior, during his murder trial in Boise on Wednesday...

Emily Ashcraft, KSL.com

Chad and Lori Daybell used ‘castings’ to pray for spouses’ deaths, ex-friend testifies

An ex-friend of Lori Daybell testified Thursday that Chad and Lori Daybell prayed for evil spirits to leave their spouses, which if successful would mean the person would die.

6 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why Printer Security Should Be Top of Mind for Your Business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Arizona’s new voting laws that require proof of citizenship are not discriminatory, a US judge rules