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Arizona faces several lawsuits since the increase in new legislation that disproportionately affects minorities in the state. Photo: Ralph Freso/Getty Images.

Civil rights organizations warn Arizona over problematic voting legislation

The Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund pushed back on AZ lawmakers as they set their sights on new voting barriers.

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Arizona lawmakers could face uphill challenges as civil rights groups pursue legal action following the enactment of three legislative measures that target the voting sphere for naturalized U.S. citizens. 

MALDEF’s letter to Department of State Secretary Katie Hobbs is the latest attempt to combat efforts by the state to overwhelm registered voters. 

This year, the state has been subject to six lawsuits over a marked increase in voting-related legislation. The measures put a number of bureaucratic roadblocks in the voting process, disproportionately affecting minorities, students, naturalized citizens, the elderly, and transient constituents. 

The Arizona legislature recently advanced House Bill 2243, which seeks to amend voting law and empower local county recorders to unenroll individuals from the voter registry if they don’t meet specific citizenship criteria.

HB 2243 requires local county recorders to unenroll voters if they “have reason to believe” that a naturalized citizen does not meet citizenship requirements. The measure relies on “verifiable” citizenship records that subject voters to onerous and lengthy procedures through state agencies. 

One requirement includes cross-referencing county voting records with the Social Security Administration database, which, MALDEF argues, is subject to clerical errors since many Latino voters have hyphenated or accented surnames. 

Another amendment compels the Secretary of State to provide counties with monthly records from the Department of Transportation and identify registered voters who were issued out-of-state licenses or non-federal identification. Those who move to Arizona could face voting disenfranchisement if counties don’t provide adequate notice. 

Said requirements apply irregular surgical precision via state-level agencies that can assume an individual isn’t a citizen over clerical discrepancies. 

The systematic approach to purge voting records, groups say, is likely to target Latino and minority voters and “has given [Arizona] just enough time to conduct one systematic voter purge of naturalized voters and voters of color just days before the midterm general election on November 8, 2022,” one lawsuit read. 

Additionally, civil rights groups have noted these measures violate the National Voting Rights Act, which says “no state may install a program that systematically removes voters within 90 days of a primary or general election.”

MALDEF wouldn’t be the first organization to move against Hobb’s office, as many groups rally legal recourse against the state’s legislature. 

On Tuesday, Aug. 16, the Arizona American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander for Equity Coalition also filed a lawsuit against Hobbs and Attorney General Mark Brnovich over HB 2492 and HB 2243, citing voter suppression concerns. 

A common thread among lawsuits is the concern over satisfactory citizenship verification requirements, which groups say will have a “chilling effect” on the registration of naturalized citizens who wish to cast their ballot legally.

While the legislative measures are set forth under the guise of promoting election integrity, advocacy groups say it could have the opposite effect. 

“Politicians in Arizona have piled obstacles in front of the voting booth simply because they don’t like the kinds of voters who want to participate in our elections. That’s not just an affront to democracy; it’s an attack on communities who deserve to have their voices heard on Election Day and to have politicians who are responsive to their needs,” said Maria Teresa Kumar, President, and CEO of Voto Latino, in a statement.
 

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