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GOP asks court to let Arizona block voters who don't provide proof of citizenship

James R. Browning U.S. Court of Appeals Building
Jimmy Jenkins/KJZZ
editorial | staff | The James R. Browning U.S. Court of Appeals Building is located in San Francisco, California.
James R. Browning U.S. Court of Appeals Building in San Francisco, California.

Republican lawmakers are asking a U.S. appeals court to allow the state to block voters who do not have proof of citizenship from voting in this year’s presidential elections months after a federal judge blocked that rule from taking effect.

After voting rights groups filed lawsuits against two Arizona election laws passed in 2022, Judge Susan Bolton found parts of the legislation conflicted with federal voting laws, including a provision requiring people using federal only registration forms to provide proof of citizenship to vote in presidential races.

Bolton upheld other parts of the laws requiring counties to verify the status of registered voters who haven’t provided proof of U.S. citizenship and cross-check voter registration information with various government databases.

House Speaker Ben Toma (R-Peoria) and Senate President Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert) asked Bolton to let the blocked provisions take effect pending an appeal filed with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

But Bolton denied that request last week, leading Republican legislators and the Republican National Committee to file an emergency motion asking the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to overrule her decision and let the blocked rules go into effect this year.

“Our elections, and the future of our country, should be decided by Americans. Non-citizen voting compromises our elections and we are committed to stopping it,” RNC Chairman Michael Whatley said in a statement. “This filing is another critical legal step in our fight to secure the 2024 election.”

Votebeat reported there are few cases involving non-citizens who were caught voting, citing information from the Arizona Attorney General’s office showing it has not prosecuted anyone for that crime since 2010.

There were 35,273 “federal-only” voters in Arizona in April, according to the Arizona Secretary of State’s office. Votebeat reported that voters between the ages of 18 and 24 are three times more likely to be federal-only voters than older voters, and that many of those voters are concentrated in communities around University of Arizona and Arizona State University.

Democratic Secretary of State Adrian Fontes asked the court to deny the request to let the portions of the laws blocked by Bolton go into effect.

In a court filing, Fontes pointed out that early voting in Arizona’s upcoming primary election begins on July 3; election officials across the state have already begun preparing for that election and the November general election under the Election Procedures Manual created by his office, which “reflects and accounts for, among other things, the district court’s Judgment.”

“In my experience as an election official, including as the former Maricopa County Recorder, I believe that entering a stay of this Court's Judgment, at this stage, will only create confusion and chaos for voters and election officials alike in the upcoming 2024 election cycle,” Fontes wrote in a declaration filed with the court.

Voting rights groups also appealed parts of Bolton’s ruling that allowed parts of the 20-22 laws to take effect, including a rule requiring counties to verify the status of registered voters who haven’t provided proof of citizenship.

Democratic Attorney General Kris Mayes also filed an appeal to challenge Bolton’s ruling that a specific piece of the 2022 legislation requiring people to include their place of birth on voter registration forms violates federal civil rights laws.

Wayne Schutsky is a broadcast field correspondent covering Arizona politics on KJZZ. He has over a decade of experience as a journalist reporting on local communities in Arizona and the state Capitol.
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