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Horne to Bennett: Those Registering Only With The Federal Form Should Not Be Permitted To Vote In State Elections

Phoenix, AZ (Monday, October 7, 2013) -- Attorney General Tom Horne has sent an opinion to the Secretary of State Ken Bennett, responding to questions received from Bennett. The Opinion concludes that those registering only under the federal form who do not provide evidence of citizenship should not be permitted to vote in state elections, or to sign state petitions.

Arizona law requires those registering to vote on a state form to provide evidence of citizenship. An alternative federal form, established under the National Voter Registration Act, requires only the signature of the voter, without additional evidence, to establish that the voter is a citizen. The Ninth Circuit ruled that Arizona would be precluded from asking for evidence of citizenship from those choosing to register on the federal form.

Arizona appealed that decision to the United States Supreme Court and Attorney General Horne personally argued the case before the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court agreed that the federal form requires only a sworn statement to establish citizenship, but it further noted that determining qualifications for voters in federal elections is a state, not a federal function. The Court stated that “Arizona is correct that it would raise serious constitutional doubts if a federal statute precluded a state from obtaining the information necessary to enforce its voter qualifications.”

The Supreme Court stated that Arizona could apply to the Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) for a state-specific requirement that potential registrants, using the federal as well as the state form, furnish evidence of citizenship. If the EAC did not grant the state’s specific requirements, Arizona could pursue the constitutional issues in court. Arizona, as instructed by the U.S. Supreme Court, is now pursuing those constitutional issues in court. The Attorney General expects ultimately to win that case.

In the meantime, while the case is pending in Court, Arizona can require evidence of citizenship on the state form, but not for those who choose to use the alternate federal form. While that is true, the Opinion just issued indicates to Secretary Bennett that there should be two separate voter rolls: one for those using the state form, and another for those using the federal form who have not provided evidence of citizenship. 

Those who have used the federal form and have not provided evidence of citizenship should not be permitted to vote in state elections, or to sign petitions, they may only vote in federal elections.

A copy of the Opinion is attached.

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