Arizona Advocacy Network

Government of, by and for the People

Under the system, voters who registered with federal registration forms would be allowed to vote only in federal elections, while those who used state forms and showed proof of citizenship would be allowed to vote in federal, state and local contests.

The move is expected to affect 900 people and cost an extra $250,000 in Maricopa County alone. 

The shift, triggered by an opinion Monday from state Attorney General Tom Horne, was immediately labeled as a restriction on voting rights. 

But Horne and Secretary of State Ken Bennett said the move is necessary to comply with an Arizona voter mandate as well as federal law.

The new procedure singles out the several thousand Arizonans who registered to vote using the federal registration form, which does not require documents to prove U.S. citizenship. 

Those voters are eligible to vote only in federal elections, Horne wrote, with the next opportunity being in August, when all nine congressional seats are on the ballot.

People who registered to vote using Arizona’s state form, which requires proof of citizenship, will be able to vote as usual, casting ballots in everything from local and state contests to congressional races. 

The same access applies to people who used the federal registration form and filled in an optional part of the form that calls for a driver’s license or other form of proof of citizenship.

Horne issued his opinion in response to questions Bennett posed after the U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down parts of an Arizona voter-registration law. 

In that 7-2 ruling, the justices said Arizona cannot demand proof of citizenship from people who register using the federal form. However, it upheld an Arizona voter mandate from 2004 that requires proof of citizenship for those using the state form.

The only way to satisfy both the voter mandate and federal law is to have a bifurcated voting system, Bennett said. 

“It’s not the preferential way to do this,” he said, but it is the best solution elections officials could come up with.

Horne’s opinion states: “Arizona law does not preclude using one form of ballots for federal offices only and another form for all state offices and measures.”

The two-track distinctions also apply to voters who sign candidate and initiative petitions and most likely to people who give $5 contributions to candidates running under the state’s public-campaign finance system. The contribution to Clean Elections candidates is tantamount to signing a nominating petition.

Critics said the opinion smacked of politics, and they predicted it will add to problems at the polls, which recently have seen long lines of voters and late results.

“It’s part of the war on voters,” said Sam Wercinski, executive director of the Arizona Advocacy Network. “They’re trying to roll this back because of our Supreme Court victory in June.”

The opinion will create more confusion for voters as they try to sort out how they registered to vote and more cost to the taxpayer for running those elections, he said.

Both Wercinski and Alessandra Soler, executive director of the Arizona Civil Liberties Union, noted that a voter’s signature on the federal form is an oath that the individual is a U.S. citizen. That should be proof enough of citizenship, they argue.

Soler said Horne’s opinion contradicts the 20-year-old National Voter Registration Act because it makes registration and voting more complicated. 

“Horne is introducing more complexity into an already confusing election system,” she said.

In Maricopa County, Elections Director Karen Osborne said she and elections officials statewide have been working on how to roll out the two-track system, anticipating that would be a consequence of the high-court ruling.

She estimated the county will have to double the number of “ballot styles” to 7,000 to accommodate the change. 

For every precinct, there will have to be one ballot for local, state and federal races and a separate ballot with only the federal races on it.

Osborne figures that will cost an extra $250,000.

Osborne also is working on a letter to the 900 or so Maricopa County voters affected by the opinion.

“I’m trying to craft a letter that’s not rude,” she said. The message: You can still vote, but only in federal contests. Likewise, these voters should not sign petitions or local or state nominating petitions, she said.

The prohibition does not extend to the referendum on House Bill 2305, because that signature effort was submitted before Monday’s opinion.

Osborne said voters who want to check on which system they used to register can go to or call their county’s elections office.

They also can register online at and use the state’s registration form. But that requires a driver’s license or state-issued identification card, which some Arizona residents lack.

Horne’s opinion states: “Arizona law does not preclude using one form of ballots for federal offices only and another form for all state offices and measures.”