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Lawsuit to challenge Arizona law to require county recorders cancel voter registrations for suspected non-citizens

Idaho Power's downtown Boise office is one of the sites that's hosted the Ada County mobile voting trailer. Idaho is one of the states that has same-day voter registration.
Frankie Barnhill
/
Boise State Public Radio
Voter registration.

By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX -- A new lawsuit is challenging an Arizona law set to take effect next month which would require county recorders to cancel the voter registration of anyone they have a "reason to believe'' is not U.S. citizens.
Attorneys for the Arizona Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander for Equity Coalition say the provision in HB 2243 creates an "anyone-can-accuse 'investigation of those we have reason to believe are not U.S. citizens' scheme.'' The result they said, will result in "arbitrary'' investigations using databases not designed to determine voting eligibility.
What's worse said Amit Makker, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, is that anyone who does not provide what he called "onerous evidence of citizenship'' within 35 days is referred to the county attorney and attorney general for criminal investigation.''
Makker also charged that 35-day window was chosen for deliberate political reasons.
He pointed out HB 2243 is set to take effect on Sept. 24. The result, Makker said, will be "an illegal voter purge (ITALICS) just days (ROMAN) before the November election.''
Now he wants a federal judge to block implementation until there can be a full hearing on the constitutionality of the measure.
The legislation is part of a multi-pronged effort by the business-oriented Free Enterprise Club to alter state voter registration laws.
"The first step in election integrity is ensuring clean and current voter rolls,'' said Greg Blackie who lobbies for the organization, about the moves. And that, he said, requires not just ensuring that people are legally qualified to vote but also "regular maintenance to ensure that people who are no longer qualified, whether due to death, felony conviction, residency status or for other reasons are regularly removed.''
Republican lawmakers actually approved a different version earlier this year, only to have HB 2617 vetoed by Gov. Doug Ducey.
"The implementation of this provision is vague and lacks any guidance for how a county recorder would confirm such a determination,'' Ducey wrote.
"Our lawfully registered voters deserve to know that their right to vote will not be disturbed without sufficient due process,'' he continued. "This provision leaves our election system vulnerable to bad actors who could seek to falsely allege a voter is not a qualified elector.''
That resulted in HB 2243 which was billed as a cleaned-up version.
Makker, for his part, doesn't see it that way.
He said the new law still requires actual proof of citizenship and not just a signature, sill results in voter cancellation versus being placed in inactive status, and still requires referral to prosecutors if there is no adequate response.
In fact, Makker said, the new version is even worse in at least one respect.
He said the original bill gave those sent notices of insufficient proof on file 90 days to respond. Now that is just 35 days.
"There is, of course, only one reason for that: the legislators who passed HB 2243 and are anticipating its immediate enforcement (ITALICS) want (ROMAN) to cancel the registration,'' Makker wrote. And he took a swat at Ducey for failing to acknowledge the flaws in the revised version.
"For Gov. Doug Ducey to veto HB 2617 on grounds of fairness and process, and then sign the next version of the bill that makes it clear that he actually meant fairness and process only as to some Arizonans -- and not as to voters of color and naturalized voters -- is remarkable,'' he wrote.
That question of who does -- and does not -- get to vote this November is more than academic.
The Free Enterprise Club is the major backer of a ballot measure which, if approved, will impose new requirements on all voters.
First, it would scrap state laws that say mail-in ballots are presumed valid if the signature on the envelope matches what county officials already have on file.
Instead, they would have to include a date of birth and a voter identification number. And the latter could be the last four digits of a social security number, a driver's license number or the number from another state-issued ID.
But Proposition 309 also would require those who go to the polls to present a photo ID. Gone would be an alternate option of bringing in two different documents without a photo that contain the person's name and address, like a utility bill, vehicle registration certificate or property tax statement.
The Free Enterprise Club also is behind a lawsuit to quash an initiative that actually would ease some voter requirements.
That measure would allow people to register and vote at the same time, including on Election Day. And people would be registered to vote when they get an Arizona driver's license unless they opt out,
It also would reinstate the state's permanent early voting list which automatically provides ballots by mail for anyone who requests it, overturning a decision by the Republican-controlled legislature.
The future of that initiative remains in doubt, however, after a judge ruled this past week that many of the signatures collected cannot be counted due to issues ranging from qualifications of circulators to missing information about signers. But there is not yet a final tally of what remains and whether it will fall below the minimum requirement of 237,645.
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