Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Wednesday signed legislation to expand U.S. citizenship voting requirements in the state, a measure that critics warn will jeopardize the voter registrations of thousands of Arizona residents.
In signing House Bill 2492, Ducey disputed testimony from local officials and voting rights advocates who say an unknown number of voters — predominantly older, longtime Arizona residents — will be purged from the state’s voter rolls because the last time they registered to vote, there was no requirement to provide proof of citizenship. Critics say those voters would then need to register again.
In 2004, Arizona voters approved a ballot measure to add proof of citizenship as a requirement for voter registration. The measure included language that grandfathered in voters who were already registered prior to 2005, when the law took effect.
Marilyn Rodriguez, a lobbyist for the ACLU of Arizona, said HB 2492 supersedes the old law and would now apply the citizenship requirement retroactively.
“So many thousands of eligible voters could lose access to the polls based on specific and targeted criteria,” she told the state Senate Government Committee earlier this month. “This bill singles out older voters, on average, and people who have lived in Arizona for a longer amount of time.”
County election officials agree, and testified that they’ll have to pore over voter registration databases to see who’s affected by the change. They say they have no way of knowing exactly the number of impacted voters until they start looking.
One estimate put the tally as high as 192,000 voters. That’s the number of Arizonans who were issued a state driver’s license prior to 1996 — when the state updated its credentialing process to ensure a driver’s lawful presence in the United States — and have not altered their license since, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.
The timing of when the law takes effect — 90 days after the end of the legislative session — may create even more problems for election officials. Depending on when the session ends, the law could be in place before the state’s August primary, or in between the primary and November general election — creating a situation in which voters who cast a ballot in August may no longer be eligible in November.