Since the 26th Amendment to the Constitution passed in 1971, every citizen older than 18 has had the right to vote. Voting is an essential exercise of one’s citizenship.
In the ongoing war against phantom voter fraud, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne issued an opinion on Oct. 7 that would create a two-tiered system for voting in the state. Those who registered to vote using the federal voter registration form, which does not require proof of citizenship on the form itself, would only be eligible to vote in federal elections and not in any state races.
A 2004 state law requires one of several modes of identification to prove citizenship to register to vote, including a driver’s license number or the last four digits of one’s Social Security number. This past June, a U.S. Supreme Court decision ruled the law unconstitutional, as states cannot alter voting requirements for federal races. The federal forms still require individuals to affirm, under penalty of perjury, that they are indeed citizens of the U.S.
State officials have landed at a workaround — just create new ballots for those who have registered with the federal form, which will cost an estimated $250,000.
The changes will only affect a few thousand voters across the state, according to The Arizona Republic.
It will not only affect the ability of certain voters to cast ballots, but it will also prevent them from signing petitions for ballot initiatives or referendum petitions, as well as candidate or recall petitions, an equally important component of the electoral process.
Voting rights groups are concerned the new rules will lead to confusion at polling places, already plagued with long lines, and may discourage voters.
Florida is well known for problems with chaotic polling locations — just read any coverage of a presidential election from 2000 to 2012. More than 200,000 voters did not cast ballots in the most recent presidential election: “Voters either waited for some time but left before voting, or simply saw the long lines and turned away,” according to Ohio State University professor Theodore Allen.
This is the fate voter registration advocates fear, though the rule would affect as few as 1,400 voters, according to Cronkite News Service.
Arizona has more than 3.2 million registered voters, of which 1,400 is about .04 percent. That doesn’t seem like much, but in state and local races, elections can be decided by very small margins.
Political junkies are well aware of the phenomenon of races being “too close to call” — which is not in itself a bad thing.
The election results for Arizona’s 9th Congressional District, in which ASU is located, were not finalized until a week after the election, as provisional and absentee ballots still had to be counted. Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema was elected to Congress with a margin of less than 10,000 votes.
A few votes can make a big difference in state and local elections. Keeping voters from exercising their franchise in contests where their votes matter most is playing politics with civil rights and is not worthy of the state of Arizona.
Reach the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @savannahkthomas