A Judge Rules that Arizona’s Recently Enacted Voting Laws, Which Mandate Proof of Citizenship, are Not Discriminatory

Arizona's Voters (Credits: Observer)

A federal judge has upheld provisions of new Arizona laws aimed at ensuring the accuracy of voter registration by requiring counties to verify the status of registered voters without proof of U.S. citizenship and cross-check voter registration information with various government databases.

U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton ruled that Arizona legislators did not discriminate when adopting these laws, emphasizing the state’s interest in preventing voter fraud and ensuring that only eligible individuals vote.

In her ruling, Judge Bolton acknowledged that Arizona’s interests in preventing non-citizens from voting and promoting public confidence in elections outweighed the limited burden placed on voters to provide documentary proof of citizenship.

Arizona’s enacted voting laws (Credits: NPR)

The decision aligns with the ongoing efforts by states to strengthen election integrity measures in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election.

However, the judge found one provision of the laws to violate the Civil Rights Act and a section of the National Voter Registration Act.

Specifically, she noted that requiring individuals to include their state or country of birth when using a state registration form could lead to the investigation of naturalized citizens based on subjective beliefs, violating their rights.

The ruling followed a bench trial in late 2023, during which experts testified on Arizona’s voting discrimination history. The judge highlighted past discriminatory practices, such as literacy tests that excluded Native American and Latino voters and voter roll purges in the 1970s and 80s that created barriers for minorities to re-register.

While acknowledging historical discrimination, Judge Bolton noted that there was no evidence presented by the plaintiffs indicating an intent by lawmakers to suppress voter registrations of minority groups or naturalized citizens when considering the bills in 2022. The laws were introduced following Joe Biden’s victory in Arizona in the 2020 presidential election.

In a previous ruling, Judge Bolton blocked a requirement that people using a federal voter registration form provide additional proof of citizenship for voting in certain elections. She cited a 1993 federal voter registration law that superseded the Arizona requirement.

A 2018 consent decree prevents Arizona from rejecting state voter registration forms without proof of citizenship and mandates registration for federal elections.

The decision reflects the ongoing legal and political debates surrounding voting rights and election integrity in the United States. While acknowledging the state’s interests in safeguarding elections, the judge also emphasized the need to address potential violations of federal laws and the rights of naturalized citizens.