By Mary Jo Pitzl, The Arizona Republic
The U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to hear a case from Arizona and Kansas in which the states argued voters should be required to produce documents showing they are U.S. citizens when using a federal voting-registration form.
That means Arizona will continue its two-track system of voting in which voters who register using the federal form get only a federal ballot at the polls. People who register using Arizona's voter form, which requires documents proving citizenship, get the full ballot, from local elections to president.
Currently, only 1,135 of Arizona's 3.2 million voters require a federal-only ballot, according to the Arizona secretary of state.
The high court's decision to not accept the challenge ends a legal battle that started after Arizona voters in 2004 approved a ballot measure that required voters to show documents proving they are citizens as well as photo ID. Arizona, later joined by Kansas, wanted to impose the same requirements on people who register using the federal form approved by the National Voter Registration Act.
The federal form was intended "to make voting easier for all eligible Americans, but Arizona and Kansas have been trying for years to erect unnecessary barriers that make it harder," Michelle Kanter Cohen, attorney for Project Vote, wrote in a statement. The group is a non-partisan non-profit organization that works to increase voter participation.
"There is very little evidence that voting by non-citizens is a problem, but there is considerable evidence that proof-of-citizenship requirements disenfranchise eligible voters, particularly low-income citizens and people of color," she said.
Sam Wercinski of the Arizona Advocacy Network hailed the decision, likening it to a double play coming on the heels of a "home run" from the Supreme Court on congressional redistricting.
He said the impact of the ruling is that Arizona cannot have two classes of voters — those who get a full ballot and those who don't — but he said the court's action, or inaction, leaves that question open to a challenge.
He declined to say if his group would sue to end the dual-track system, which he called "another waste of limited tax resources."
The system cost $250,000 in Maricopa County alone, The Republic reported last fall, as the county had to print two sets of ballots, even though only a fraction of voters qualified for the "federal-only" ballot.
Secretary of State Michele Reagan's office on Monday said the dual-track system would continue for next year's elections.