November will mark the first general election in which Arizonans use a dual track voting system. The new method prevents Arizona from imposing citizenship requirements on voters using the federal form. But it does allow the state to mandate proof of citizenship for local elections. It comes from a voter approved initiative to crack down on fraudulent voting. But, as Arizona Public Radio’s Justin Regan reports, the new system is proving difficult for some first time voters.
Jason Kordosky is the campus vote organizer for the Arizona Students Association, today he’s at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff registering first time voters.
“I think this is one of the most important elections so all these sort of state elections will have a huge impact on our educational system”, Kordosky said.
But, about half the students Kordosky has registered so far may not be voting in Arizona’s local elections, because they legally reside in other states and don’t have the required ID to vote here. Ashley Green is one of those students.
“Being an out of state student I receive scholarships and grants specifically designated for being an out of state resident, and if I file for in state residency in Arizona that would essentially disqualify me from out of state funding,” Green said.
Green is a junior at NAU with legal residency in her home state of Alabama. Because she doesn’t have an Arizona ID, she’d need copies of her passport or birth certificate to register as an Arizona voter.
It’s a super convoluted process and issue just to want to go to a poll and vote, that’s all I want to do,” Green said.
Voting for the first time is a rite of passage for many young people. But they aren’t always aware of what it will take on their part to be eligible for that privilege. Patty Hansen is the Coconino County Recorder.
“Unfortunately students are not the most prepared, they’re focusing on school not registering to vote. They don’t come to school and change their driver’s license to an Arizona driver’s license. And a lot of those students don’t have passports and they don’t go to school with their birth certificates,” Hansen said.
Even students who’ve lived in Arizona for many years, if not their whole lives, may not understand the process. It can be especially true in families where citizenship status is mixed. Cristian Avila, leads the Arizona chapter of Mi Familia Vota, a non-profit organization that works in Arizona schools to educate and increase the Latino voting population.
“A lot of the schools we go to are primarily Latino, and a lot of these Latino households they don’t know the process especially in the mixed-status families. And these are U.S. citizen kids that we need to start educating on what’s the process. What are the important dates of this election, and it’s really causing a lot of trouble in the work that we do,” Avila said.
Avila says Arizona’s new dual track voting system is a complicated hurdle for first time Latino voters.
“We’re one of two states that require an ID to be able to register to vote, and if we don’t provide that we are only able to vote on federal elections and it’s creating a second class voter,” Avila said.
But Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne says the system, is not intended to hurt students or minority voters, but is instead designed to preserve the integrity of voting.
“Fraudulent voting is a serious issue, there have been innumerable articles saying that fraudulent voting is a myth and it doesn’t really occur and the only reason people want to require this is to suppress minority voting. And none of that is true,” Horne said.
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Arizona's proof of citizenship requirement for registering voters in state elections. Attorney General Horne speculates Arizona will eventually be able to impose their requirements on federal elections as well.
“The two separate ballots is a temporary bridge to the time that I will suspect we’ll win this case in the circuit court,” Horne said.
Currently, U.S. citizens residing in Arizona can use a variety of identification to register and vote in state elections including a state driver’s license or ID, copies of a birth certificate or passport, a naturalized certificate number or an Indian Census number.