Can Arizona Verify Voters’ Citizenship?

Press Releases

September 27, 2022

IRLI, attorneys group show court no federal law can block

WASHINGTON—Last week, the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) and IRLI’s nationwide network of attorneys, Attorneys United for a Secure America (AUSA), both filed friend-of-the-court briefs in Arizona federal district court in a set of consolidated lawsuits brought by the federal government, the Democratic National Committee, and activists to take down an Arizona law requiring state election officials to verify the U.S. citizenship of those applying to vote in federal elections in the state.

Under a federal law, states have to “accept and use” a particular federal-government voter registration form when signing up people to vote in federal elections. In an earlier case, the Supreme Court struck down an earlier Arizona law that required applicants using that form to provide proof of citizenship with the form. The Court reasoned that because the Constitution puts the federal government in charge of regulating how federal elections are conducted, Arizona was not “accepting and using” the federal form —which only had a citizenship check-box, and did not require proof of citizenship—when it required proof with the form.

As IRLI points out in its brief, and AUSA in its, the current Arizona law is very different. Arizona accepts the federal form as-is. Then, however, election officials are supposed to verify citizenship claims on the form by looking at databases. If they are not able to verify an applicant’s citizenship, even after contacting the applicant and asking for proof, they cannot register the applicant to vote.

The earlier Supreme Court case does not rule out this procedure. Indeed, that case acknowledged that states could disqualify applicants based on information in the states’ possession that those applicants were not citizens. And that case also made it very clear that the Constitution puts the states, not the federal government, in charge of voter qualifications (such as citizenship) in federal elections.

“It is absurd to claim that states, under the Constitution, can deny noncitizens the vote, but then say they cannot verify any citizenship claims made on a federal form,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI. “No federal law can require states just to presume that these claims are true, and the Supreme Court never said otherwise. We hope the court, or higher courts on appeal, sees these lawsuits for what they are—an outrageous, partisan attempt to get as many noncitizens to vote in Arizona as possible—and upholds Arizona’s law.”

The cases are Mia Familia Vota v. Hobbs, No. 2:22-cv-00509 (D. Ariz.).

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