Arizona and Kansas, where top state posts come up for grabs next year, are creating two-tiered voting systems to bar some residents from casting ballots in all but congressional races unless they prove they’re U.S. citizens. The dual methods are in response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that bars Arizona from rejecting federal voter-registration forms that don’t include proof of citizenship, which is required by both states. To comply, both plan to provide those voters with ballots listing just federal races. “It is quite likely going to disenfranchise a number of voters,” said Julie Ebenstein, a lawyer with the Voting Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union in New York. “It is going to cause a lot of expense to county election officials and confusion.”
State officials say they have little choice: the high court didn’t invalidate the statutes that require proof of citizenship to vote in state and local races. Critics say the mandates are designed to impede ballot access for minorities, the poor and older residents who may not have the needed documentation, such as a passport or a birth certificate.
“It’s a little bit of a mess for election officials,” said Matt Roberts, a spokesman for Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett. “We found ourselves in the middle of these two things.”