WASHINGTON — Suffrage advocates on Wednesday hailed the Justice Department’s decision to sue Arizona’s tough new voter ID law, which federal officials called a “classic violation of the law.” on voter registration”.
It’s just the latest legal challenge to Arizona’s election laws, which have landed in the Supreme Court twice in recent years – winning once and losing once – in what has become a frustrating ‘broken record’ for some. defenders.
“It’s very disturbing and it just gets tiring,” said Petra Falcon, executive director of Promise Arizona. “What a waste of money, what a waste of energy.”
But Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich welcomed the opportunity to defend the law that supporters call a “common sense” defense against fraudulent voting.
HB 2492, which is expected to come into effect in January, would require election officials to reject the registration of any voter who cannot provide proof of citizenship through a driver’s license, birth certificate, a passport or other approved documents. It would also require potential voters to show proof of residency in order to get a ballot at a polling station.
The law would apply to voters registering for state and local elections as well as “federal only” voters – those who register using a national ballot form that only requires the applicant to tick a box attesting to the fact that he is a citizen of the United States and eligible to vote.
Proponents of the bill say the system is open to abuse by noncitizens, and when he signed the measure in March, Gov. Doug Ducey claimed in a statement that federal-only voters had “significantly increased” in the state, with 13,042 in Maricopa County alone in 2020.
The Justice Department and other opponents of the bill argue that the Arizona law violates both the Civil Rights Act and the National Voter Registration Act. And they say the Supreme Court is on their side.
“Arizona was in the Supreme Court in 2013 and lost 7 to 2 in a lawsuit that cost the state more than $2 million on this demand and it was overturned,” said Alex Gulotta, director of the State of Arizona for All Voting is Local.
He was referring to the Supreme Court’s decision in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, which challenged voter-approved Proposition 200, which required proof of citizenship for voter registration. Judge Antonin Scalia wrote that the National Voter Registration Act requires states to “accept and use” a uniform federal form, and that the law “prevents Arizona from requiring a federal form applicant to submit information beyond that required by the form itself”.
Critics say voter identification and other voter restriction laws aim to suppress voting for certain groups, for whom it might be difficult or impossible to provide the required documents.
“The intent is to impact out-of-vote efforts from communities of color,” Falcon said.
She said such restrictions also affect young voters. During voter registration, she said she met young people who lost their driver’s license but did not get another one because they did not drive or had a car and did not think in need to vote.
Proof of residency requirements can also impede the right to vote of homeless, rural and indigenous citizens. In a March letter to Ducey challenging HB 2492, for example, Navajo officials said there are few addresses in the Navajo Nation, where most residents use PO box addresses for mail.
Critics like the Citizens Clean Election Commission say HB 2492 was based on a “false premise that people who are ineligible to vote for president because of their citizenship status do so in significant numbers.”
But supporters say citizenship proof requirements help prevent undocumented immigrants from voting, a right reserved for US citizens. Brnovich blasted the Justice Department’s lawsuit challenging the Arizona law, saying in a statement that “in addition to free rooms and transportation for those who illegally enter our country, the DOJ now wants to give them a chance. to vote”.
Brnovich, who successfully defended Arizona’s “ballot harvesting” ban in the Supreme Court last year, welcomed the opportunity “to be in court again to defend Arizona.” against the anarchy of the Biden administration”.
Gulotta sees it differently, saying state officials were warned that HB 2492 was unconstitutional.
“When you’re governor and you sign a bill that you know is illegal, you should expect to be prosecuted,” he said.
His organization was one of many protesting Ducey’s signing of the bill, including Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, the nominal target of the Justice Department lawsuit. She said in a statement Wednesday that she had “made it clear from the outset that I did not believe this law was constitutional or good policy.”
In a letter to Ducey in March, Hobbs said the measure not only “creates new hurdles for voters who are disconnected from any legitimate election integrity goals,” but also violates “clearly established federal law.” .
While the lawsuit comes as no surprise to advocates, it also frustrates some like Falcon, who said she hopes the courts block it so the state can move on.
“We tried to heal the state of division,” she said. “I pray it doesn’t move forward and gets stuck in court as soon as possible.”