Bill to force voters to keep addresses with state agencies up-to-date dies

A House bill that would require voters to have the same address on file with the Secretary of State and the Department of Transportation or face a civil penalty failed in committee.

Story by Paulina Pineda, Arizona Capitol Times

HB2397 would have required the person to update their address with ADOT within 10 days or register to vote using the address on file with the department. If they failed to do so, they could face a $25 fine and have their driver’s license suspended.

The measure failed in the House Federalism, Property Rights and Public Policy Committee, which sponsor Rep. Bob Thorpe chairs, by a 4-5 vote, with Republicans Noel Campbell and Travis Grantham joining their Democratic colleagues in voting to kill the bill.

But even Republicans who voted in favor of moving the bill out of committee said that if it passed, they would not support the bill without amendments.

Opponents of the bill said it was a way for the Flagstaff Republican to silence voters. Last year he sponsored legislation to ban students from using their dorm addresses to register to vote. That bill was declared likely unconstitutional by House attorneys and died without ever receiving a committee hearing.

Joel Edman, executive director of the Arizona Advocacy Network, said the legislation undermines the voting rights of students, low-income voters and active duty military members who move often.

“At AZAN, we believe registering to vote should be encouraged,” he said. “Exposing someone to potential criminal liability because they register to vote is, to state the obvious, just the opposite.”

However, Thorpe said in committee that the bill had nothing to do with voting or where a person registers to vote. The bill, he said, seeks to ensure that the voter database and the Motor Vehicle Department database are consistent.

He added that there is already a law in statute that requires people to update their address with the MVD within 10 days of moving or be subject to a penalty.

“It’s not an issue of where you’re registering to vote,” he said. “It’s an issue that you’re now telling a government agency that you live someplace else that doesn’t match your driver’s license so that shows that you’re in violation of statute.”

HB2397 would require the Secretary of State or county recorder to provide ADOT a summary of the voter registrant’s information “for the purposes of validating the registrant’s residence address.” It would only apply to voter registrants who provide their driver’s license or state identification number on their registration form.

ADOT would then be required to determine if the person’s address on file with the Motor Vehicle Department is the same as the address listed on the Secretary of State’s summary.

If it isn’t, the department is required to notify the person in writing that they must either update their address with the department within 10 days or register to vote using the same address on file with MVD.

Thorpe said the idea was brought to him by a county recorder. The Arizona Association of Counties and the county recorders opposed the bill.

He added that the Secretary of State’s Office told him that address inconsistencies have proven to be a problem for the agency, with about a third of the election literature sent to voters being returned as undeliverable.

However, Deputy Secretary of State Lee Miller told the committee that the agency was concerned about how the bill would affect the state’s youngest and oldest voter demographic. He said that there were also concerns about how much it would cost to implement this change.

Instead, Miller said, the agency and county recorders have a “better solution” to ensuring the voter registration rolls are accurate: by continuing to do what they are already doing.

Miller said Arizona joined at least 20 other states this year in becoming a member of the Election Resource Information Center. The nonprofit organization helps states improve the accuracy of their voter rolls by cross checking the state’s voter rolls against those of other member states and the private sector.

“They can accomplish the same thing without additional costs,” Miller said. “We think that is the best way we know how to keep the voter roll up to date.”