Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne has sent an opinion to 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 high 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.”
In his Opinion to Secretary of State Bennett, Horne writes, “Persons seeking to register to vote must comply with Proposition 200’s evidence-of-citizenship requirement in order to become a qualified elector eligible to vote in state and local elections and to sign candidate, initiative, referendum or recall petitions.”
Attorney General Horne’s cogent Opinion on this important issue can be read here.