Secretary of State Ken Bennett is directing election officials to separate their federal election ballots from state and local races to keep those who cannot prove citizenship from voting in the latter. Bennett’s order followed a formal opinion Monday by state Attorney General Tom Horne. He conceded that, for the time being, Arizona must allow people who use a special form designed by the federal Election Assistance Commission to register to vote, even though that form does not require proof of citizenship. Arizona voters mandated such proof in 2004. But the U.S. Supreme Court concluded Congress is entitled to require states to accept the federally designed registration form. Horne said Monday that he believes that directive applies only to elections for federal offices like the president and congressional races, which he believes frees Arizona to apply its proof-of-citizenship mandate for anyone who wants to vote for anything from governor on down the ballot.
Horne said it also means those who register with the federal form and do not provide citizenship proof cannot sign petitions, whether to nominate someone for office, put a question on the ballot or recall a sitting state or local official.
Bennett conceded his order is likely to create a bit of a headache for county election officials. They will have to either maintain entirely separate voter registration rolls or, at the very least, have a special “flag” on those who signed up to vote without providing citizenship proof.
He estimated there are “a few thousand people statewide” in that category out of nearly 3.2 million registered voters.
Potentially more troublesome, county officials will have to print separate ballots with only federal races on them for each polling place.
Bennett said, though, that his office has no choice if it is to enforce that 2004 voter mandate.