Arizona, already at odds with the federal government and civil-rights groups over immigration, is adding voter ID and the Voting Rights Act to the disputes. Arizona’s voter ID law, a portion of Proposition 200, was partially struck down in April by a federal appeals court that said the state can’t require proof of citizenship for people who use a federal form to register to vote. But the court said Arizona can continue to require proof of citizenship for those who register using a state form and the state can still require voters to show ID at the polls. Federal voter registration forms, which must be accepted in all 50 states, were created as part of a 1993 federal law meant to make voter registration easier. The federal motor voter law – so named because it allows registration upon renewing or applying for a driver’s license – does not require applicants to prove citizenship. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that states can require proof of citizenship for their own registration forms, but not for federal forms. Arizona is appealing the court ruling against its restrictive voter ID law, and the state plans to sue over the section of the Voting Rights Act that requires federal permission for any changes to state and local elections. Arizona has asked the Supreme Court to allow the state to require citizenship proof on federal registration forms.
Even though voters can choose between the state and federal forms – and avoid the proof-of-citizenship requirement by doing so – Arizona elections officials still can tell voters they must prove their citizenship, as long as they don’t mention the federal forms. The Arizona Secretary of State‘s Office website still directs voters to prove citizenship, but does not notify voters they can register federal by using forms.
Tammy Patrick, a federal compliance officer at the Maricopa County Recorder‘s Office, said if a voter tries to register without proof of citizenship, an election officer is not obligated to inform them of the federal form option. However, if a voter asks specifically for that form, the officer is required to provide it. “Any single voter that comes in that says, ‘I want to register to vote but I want to use a federal form,’ … will get a federal form, no questions asked,” Patrick said.