US federal judge upholds most provisions of Arizona voting laws requiring proof of citizenship News
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US federal judge upholds most provisions of Arizona voting laws requiring proof of citizenship

A federal judge in Arizona upheld two state laws on Thursday that require voters to provide documentation to prove their US citizenship before registering to vote. US District Judge Susan Bolton’s decision upheld HB 2492 and 2243.

After a 10-day bench trial, Bolton issued a 109-page opinion upholding the laws. However, Bolton found that the provision of HB 2492 that requires voters to list their place of birth to be presumed as properly registered to vote violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) because “an individual’s birthplace is not material to determining her eligibility to vote.” Bolton also struck down a provision of HB 2243 that allowed voter registration workers to conduct SAVE checks on registrants that they believe “are not United States citizens.” SAVE is a federal government system that retrieves immigration-related information to determine government benefit eligibility.

However, Bolton concluded that the laws did not impose an “undue burden” on voters. Additionally, Bolton did not find that the laws violate the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution. Under the Equal Protection Clause, if a law is facially neutral, the plaintiffs have the burden to demonstrate that the government passed the law with a discriminatory purpose. During the trial, the plaintiffs had expert witnesses testify about Arizona’s history of discrimination in the context of past voting laws. Nevertheless, Bolton ruled that the plaintiffs “failed to show that the Voting Laws were enacted with a discriminatory purpose.”

In response to the ruling, Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes stated:

We applaud the Court for its decisive action in upholding the rights of all Arizona voters. Today’s opinion dismantles a blatant attempt to suppress the votes of Arizona’s diverse electorate. This ruling reaffirms that voter suppression has no place in our democracy, and attempts to disenfranchise citizens are a solution in search of a problem

Under Arizona law, voters have to be US citizens. HB 2492 requires Arizona voters to provide documentary proof of citizenship. HB 2243 allows vote registrations to be canceled if recorders have a reason to believe the person is not a citizen or does not provide satisfactory evidence of citizenship within 35 days of notice.