It makes absolutely no sense that someone would be qualified to vote for president but not for governor. Yet that’s the logic of Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne and Secretary of State Ken Bennett. In order to get around a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Bennett and Horne have proposed implementing a two-tiered voting system — based on the form people use to register. People who register using the state form will be able to cast ballots in all elections; those who register with the federal form will be limited to federal races. If all goes as Horne and Bennett hope, Arizona will have two classes of voters for next year’s mid-term elections. It will be a significant policy shift — prior to Horne’s opinion on the matter in October, Arizonans could vote in any election after registering with the federal form. Moreover, dividing the voter rolls will be costly for taxpayers, burdensome for elections officials and confusing for voters.
Arizona and Kansas, where Secretary of State Kris Kobach is also trying to implement a two-tiered system, are the only jurisdictions where officials have a problem with the federal voter registration form, which requires voters to declare under penalty of perjury that they are citizens. Officials in just these two states think the federal form should require documentary proof of citizenship despite these safeguards, which have been in place for decades to make sure that no ineligible voters get on the rolls.
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Arizona and Kansas’ misguided position this past summer when it ruled that the federal form’s declaration is sufficient proof of citizenship. The National Voter Registration Act of 1993, the court said in the case Arizona v. Inter-Tribal Council, forbids states from demanding that people submit documentary proof-of-citizenship when they register to vote using the federal form.
In response, Arizona and Kansas officials hatched their plans to bifurcate the voter rolls — adopting a voting process that has a long and sad history in the U.S.