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Critics say GOP bill would force unknown number of Arizonans to re-register to vote

Another Republican attempt to force federal-only voters to provide documentation of citizenship may also force an unknown number of Arizonans to re-register to vote.

House Bill 2492, sponsored by Rep. Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek) attempts to make election officials apply citizenship standards to voters registering with a federal voter registration form. Officials who fail to follow the proposed law would be guilty of a felony.

But election officials say it’s illegal to follow Hoffman’s proposal. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a citizenship requirement for Arizona voters can’t be applied to the federal voter registration form. As a result, Arizona has a bifurcated system that allows federally-registered voters to vote in federal elections, but not state races.

Critics also warn that in Hoffman’s attempt to check the citizenship status of federal-only voters, he’s also putting the registration of potentially thousands of Arizonans at risk. That’s because the citizenship requirement would now apply to voters who haven’t changed their registration since 2005 — before the state adopted the law requiring proof of citizenship when registering to vote.

Voters who haven’t updated their registration since 2005 would have to re-register, said Marilyn Rodriguez, a lobbyist for the ACLU.

“So many thousands of eligible voters could lose access to the polls based on specific and targeted criteria,” she told the Senate Government Committee earlier this month. “This bill singles out older voters, on average, and people who have lived in Arizona for a longer amount of time.”

Backers of the bill, which is supported by the Free Enterprise Club, dispute that it applies retroactively.

But Jen Marson, the executive director for the Arizona Association of Counties, said counties would have to comb through voter registration databases if HB 2492 is signed into law.

And depending on how long the legislative session lasts, county’s may be required to do that in the middle of the 2020 election season. 

Bills take effect 90 days after the end of session. If the session ends in May or June, HB 2492 would take effect in August or September, in between the primary and general midterm elections.

The bill has already been approved by the full House and Senate, and awaits Gov. Doug Ducey’s signature or veto.

Ben Giles is a senior editor at KJZZ.