The Justice Department is suing Arizona over a new voting law that requires residents to prove their citizenship to register to vote in federal elections. The department’s complaint states Arizona’s law violates both Section 6 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and Section 101 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Under the new state law, proof of citizenship includes most drivers licenses, a passport, birth certificate, or naturalization documents, among other options. If all the requirements are not met in the voter registration application, the county recorder is required to inform the voter of what’s missing, and not finalize that person’s registration until everything is complete.
The Justice Department said this law goes against a 2013 Supreme Court decision stating a very similar Arizona law violated the National Voter Registration Act, which guarantees a simple means of registering to vote in federal elections.The NVRA created a universal federal form that requires people to attest that they are an eligible citizen under penalty of perjury — there’s no documentation needed.
The 7-2 decision written by the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia stated, “We hold that 42 U. S. C. §1973gg–4 precludes Arizona from requiring a Federal Form applicant to submit information beyond that required by the form itself.”
“For nearly three decades, the National Voter Registration Act has helped to move states in the right direction by eliminating unnecessary requirements that have historically made it harder for eligible voters to access the registration rolls,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement. “Arizona has passed a law that turns the clock back on progress by imposing unlawful and unnecessary requirements that would block eligible voters from the registration rolls for certain federal elections.”
The Arizona legislation, HB 2492, passed through the Arizona state legislature along party lines in March. Republican Gov. Doug Ducey expressed confidence in the new version.
“We think it’s good legislation, we think it protects the voters. If somebody wants to challenge the legislation, have at it,” Gov. Ducey told local Arizona station KPNX-TV.
One of the bill’s main sponsors, state Rep. Jake Hoffman (R), appeared to anticipate legal challenges.
“I am confident that should Democrats challenge HB 2492 in court it will only serve to further reinforce its clear constitutionality,” Rep. Hoffman said after the bill passed. He described it as “a giant step toward ensuring elections are easy, convenient, and secure in our state.”
If the Arizona law survives the challenge, it’s set to take effect January 2023.