Arizona’s Republican governor signed a bill on Wednesday requiring voters to prove their citizenship to vote in presidential elections, meeting fierce opposition from voting rights attorneys who say it could affect 200,000 people.
The bill also requires anyone new to register to vote to provide proof of their address.
The state legislature’s own attorneys say much of the measure is unconstitutional, directly contradicts a recent US Supreme Court decision, and will likely be thrown out of court. Still, voting lawyers worry the bill is an attempt to get back before the now more conservative Supreme Court.
Representative Jake Hoffman, who co-developed the bill with the conservative Heritage Foundation, said the measure was about eliminating opportunities for fraud, although instances of non-citizen voting are extremely rare.
Arizona is the only state that requires voters to prove their citizenship when they register, a provision passed in a 2004 ballot measure known as Proposition 200.
In violation of Proposition 200, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that Arizona may adopt its own state election eligibility criteria, but must accept a federal voter registration form for federal elections. The federal form requires voters to testify that they are citizens of the state under penalty of perjury, but unlike the state form, it does not require them to provide documentary evidence. The state has unsuccessfully tried to change the federal form.
The ruling created a class of voters who can only vote for the president, the US House and the US Senate, known as “federal-only voters.” There are currently 31,500 people registered that way, according to the Arizona Secretary of State’s office.
There is no evidence that the existence of federal-only voters has enabled non-citizens to vote illegally, but Republican skeptics have nonetheless worked aggressively to crack down.
The bill would go into effect 90 days after the end of the legislative session, which will likely fall between the primary and general elections. Affected voters could legally vote in the August 2 primaries. They would be notified that their registration was at risk of being canceled if they failed to prove their citizenship, and they would have until October 11 to resolve the issue or miss their chance to vote in the general election.
Sam Almy, a data analyst who consults for Democratic campaigns, said his analysis of voter registration records found just under 220,000 voters who had not updated their registrations since 2004, when Proposition 200 was passed. The group leans heavily toward registered Republicans, the elderly, and those who vote consistently.