By Corinne Murdock |
On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill to require proof of citizenship for those registering to vote, 5-3 along party lines. HB2492, which would require county recorders to search databases for a registrant’s citizenship proof, passed the House at the end of February.
Activists present were outspoken, interrupting the meeting multiple times to the point that Chairman Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert) had to remove an individual from the room and call a five minute recess.
During public comment on HB2492 in committee, there was contention as to whether HB2492 violated the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) 2013 ruling in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona. That ruling struck down Arizona’s law requiring voter registration applicants to be turned down if the registrant didn’t provide proof of citizenship, declaring that the federal voting laws established through the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993.
Arizona Association of Counties (AACo) Executive Director Jen Marson, quoted from SCOTUS Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion in the 2013 ruling to argue that the ruling nullified HB2492. Marson insisted that passage of the law would effectively require counties to violate federal law.
“‘We hold that [NVRA] precludes Arizona from requiring a Federal Form applicant to submit information beyond that required by the form itself. Arizona may, however, request anew that the [Election Assistance Commission] EAC include such a requirement among the Federal Form’s state-specific instructions, and may seek judicial review of the EAC’s decision under the Administrative Procedure Act,’” read Marson.
Those in favor of the bill argued that it complied with the SCOTUS ruling because voter registration would only be denied for those found to not be citizens, not those who merely lack citizenship proof.
Arizona Free Enterprise Club Deputy Director Greg Blackie rebutted that the bill wouldn’t violate the 2013 ruling because Scalia also said that the “NVRA doesn’t preclude states from denying registration based on information in their possession establishing the applicant’s ineligibility” — meaning, that those found to not be citizens could be rejected and those without any information confirming or denying their citizenship could be registered as federal-only voters.
“This bill carefully stays within the framework established by Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council,” insisted Blackie.
In addition to the nuance of compliance with SCOTUS, legislators emphasized that determining citizenship was a must-have for elections. Majority Whip Sonny Borrelli (R-Lake Havasu City) said that the bill had nothing to do with voter suppression.
“I don’t want somebody coming in here from a foreign country — particularly, you know, Italy for that matter — and just coming in and registering on a president-only vote, ballot, and they’re not even a US citizen. Because what that does, it nullifies the legal resident,” said Borrelli. “I don’t see the big burden here; I mean we want to make sure that a legal citizen has a right to vote and an illegal vote does not negate a legal vote. And that’s what it is, that’s about voter protection. It’s not about undermining the vote.”
Outspoken Democrats on the bill were rebuked by Petersen for going off the subject and impugning Republicans’ motives. Minority Whip Martin Quezada (D-Glendale) implied that Republicans were purposefully targeting individuals like the activists in attendance at the committee meeting because they feared them.
“What do those people look like? And why are those people being targeted if this bill passes? They’re afraid of you all right now. And this bill is targeting you all right now —” said Quezada.
“That’s absolutely ridiculous,” interjected Petersen. “Mr. Quezada, you’re impugning the motives of the sponsor of this bill and the members of the committee.”
Petersen stated that there are 36,000 people in Arizona registered to vote that haven’t proven citizenship status, noting that just recently an individual complained that the bill jeopardized their ability to vote in Arizona because they’re an illegal immigrant.
“I even saw a tweet from someone who said, ‘This bill is a risk to me! I’m a DACA person,’” stated Petersen. “We want everyone to vote, but we want citizens to vote. And it’s our job to make sure that happens.”