Arizona Republic: Nice Voting Trick, Boys, but it Won't Work

By Editorial Board, The Arizona Republic

Here’s an old trick: Create a phony problem and take credit for attacking it vigorously.

After years of hunting for voter fraud in Arizona, there is scant evidence of non-citizens voting. The real problem is lack of voter participation.

Nevertheless, two of Arizona’s top elected officials are ready with a separate but unequal voter registration scheme that attacks the non-existent problem and undermines efforts to increase voter registration. (And they say Congress is dysfunctional.)

Yet there’s plenty of calculation behind this apparent madness.

Take a look at the players. Attorney General Tom Horne, who wants to be re-elected, and Secretary of State Ken Bennett, who wants to be governor, will face Republican primary contests next year.

Don’t bother Miss Marple. There’s no mystery about who gains when Bennett asks the questions and Horne answers with an attorney general’s opinion that will be a big applause line among GOP primary voters.

(Not so among national and international companies looking for a modern state in which to set up shop. But nobody said this was big-picture stuff.)

In Horne’s opinion, it’s A-OK for Arizona to allow people who register with a state voter registration form to vote in all elections and sign petitions for initiatives, referenda and recalls. Not so for those who register to vote using the federal form. They can vote only in federal elections.

That’s because:

We all know the feds can’t do anything right, so who needs their form?

Arizona covets the motto: “Civil Rights Retro State.”

The state enjoys being named in lawsuits.

All of the above.

Back in 1993, when Congress was still functional, it passed the National Voter Registration Act, aka “motor voter,” to encourage voter participation by making it easier to register to vote. Federal forms require people to attest to the fact they are U.S. citizens.

In 2004, Arizona voters passed a requirement for people to prove citizenship to register. Those were the days when demonizing undocumented immigrants was as in-your-face as a Miley Cyrus dance routine, and the idea that Juan the busboy was taking over our elections was being sold by ambitious GOP politicians across the state.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court said Arizona’s proof-of-citizenship requirement could not be used to reject federal voter registration forms. Arizona had to accept them, too.

This 7-2 decision was written by one of the most un-liberal members of the court: Justice Antonin Scalia, and joined by conservative Chief Justice John Roberts.

Arizona previously asked the federal Elections Assistance Committee to have the proof-of-citizenship requirement added to the federal form in this state, and hit a roadblock.

Changing the federal form so all Arizona voters meet the same requirements to register would be one way out of a problem — if we had a problem with non-citizens voting, which we don’t.

Meanwhile, Bennett and Horne will take credit for a confusing dual-registration system that is likely to reduce voter turnout, but help them in their respective primaries.

Tricky. But not good for Arizona.

The original article can be viewed here.