Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Arizona On Sidelines Of New Voter Registration/Proof of Citizenship Battle... Which It Started; Could Jump Back Into Fray

Arizona started the battle over adding a proof of citizenship requirement to the national motor-voter registration forms, going to the U.S. Supreme Court twice over the matter. Today, word came out that the Commission in charge of the national forms was giving in on the issue, kicking off an intra-commission battle which could spread to the states and courts.  Arizona is currently on the sidelines, although Secretary of State Michele Reagan could soon join in.

Here is the background:  The U.S. Election Assistance Commission was a commissioner-less commission for several years, which led to some of the Arizona/Kansas fights with it over the forms.  Arizona had passed Prop 200 back in 2004, which required documentation proving citizenship before being registered to vote. That went to the Supreme Court, and Justice Scalia gave the state a road-map on how to navigate through the EAC.  

Arizona and Kansas followed the map, and then fought up to the Supreme Court again, claiming that the commissioner-less EAC could not reject the requests that the form have Arizona-specific instructions to send in proof of citizenship.  The Supreme Court refused to hear the case in 2014, and Arizona permitted people who used the federal form (and who had not provided proof of citizenship) to ONLY vote for Congress; special ballots were printed up for every precinct, and only a few were used.

Today, word came out that the EAC - now, with a full slate of commissioners, thanks to action by the Senate and President at the end of 2014 - sent Kansas (and a couple of other states) a letter agreeing to add the Kansas-specific requested instructions about proof of citizenship to the national form.

Arizona's Politics immediately requested clarification from Secretary Reagan's office. Turns out that Kansas moved forward on its own, and Reagan is "reviewing her options."  Communications Director Matt Roberts notes that Reagan is concerned about the waste which took place in 2014 and "the costs to our rural counties for the ballots they have to print and go unused."

One of Secretary Reagan's options is to send her own letter to the EAC to request a similar change in the instructions.  However, that might not be as open-and-shut as it appeared this morning. The Vice-Chair of the Commission just released an angry statement saying that the EAC Executive Director did not have the authority to accept the Kansas instruction and asking it be withdrawn.  And, the fight is on...again.

Of course, even if Reagan gets the EAC to add the proof of citizenship instruction, she will still have to deal with whether to again order federal-only ballots this November for the (dwindling) number of people who used the federal form and have not yet provided proof of citizenship.

(Full listing of Arizona's Politics' articles on this issue is here.)

(Phoenix election law attorney Paul Weich contributed this article.)

We welcome your comments about this post. Or, if you have something unrelated on your mind, please e-mail to info-at-arizonaspolitics-dot-com or call 602-799-7025. Thanks.

1 comment:

kramartini said...

I don't see how Secretary Reagan can avoid issuing Federal-only ballots.

Under Arizona law, prospective voters who fail to show proof of citizenship cannot vote in ANY election.

That said, Federal law pre-empts state law with respect to voting for the US Congress and the US Senate (but not for state officers or for Presidential electors).

The only way for the Secretary to comply with all of the laws is to continue as is.