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The state of Arizona officially ushered a group of this state’s residents to the back of the bus on Monday, declaring that there are now two kinds of voters in this state.
Attorney General Tom Horne announced that Arizona will henceforth have two classes: voters who can fully participate in the political process — signing petitions and casting ballots for the school board, for City Council, for governor, for Congress and for propositions that regulate the way we live.
… And voters who can’t.
Those second-class voters – the ones the U.S. Supreme Court has said we must accept – will be relegated to casting ballots only for whom they want to send to Washington.
Not since House Bill 2305 have I seen such electoral shenanigans. By that I mean not since June, when the Arizona Legislature passed a raft of election “reforms” that attempt to make it harder, among other things, to recall elected officials or put citizen initiatives on the ballot. Look for those “reforms” to be coming to a ballot near you next year.
That is, unless you’re a second-class voter. Then, you don’t get a say.
Horne’s opinion, released on Monday, basically is the attorney general’s way of sticking his thumbs in his ears, waggling his fingers and singing na-na-na na na na as he faces northeast, toward the United States Supreme Court.
The high court in June struck down part of Arizona’s voter-imposed 2004 law requiring proof of citizenship in order to vote. The court, in a 7-2 ruling, said that Arizona could require proof of citizenship on state-issued registration forms but that it couldn’t prevent people from registering to vote using the federal form. That form, established by the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, requires only that you swear you’re a citizen.
Horne’s response: OK then if you register to vote using the federal form and you don’t provide the information needed to verify your eligibility as Arizona voters have decreed, then you’ll only be voting in federal elections.
“Although the Court did not specifically address whether a Federal Form applicant could vote in state or local elections, the Court noted that state-developed voter registration forms could be used ‘in both state and federal elections’ and that the Federal Form guarantees that a simple means of registering to vote infederal elections will be available,” Horne’s opinion says.
Lee Miller, attorney for the Republican Party, says Horne is on solid legal ground.
“This ruling simply tells chiefly the county recorders … to faithfully execute the Constitution of Arizona and faithfully undertakes the will of the voters when they adopted Proposition 200,” he told me.
Voting rights activists say it’s a calculated political move, one of a number in recent years aimed at shoring up the Republican Party. This time, by fighting against widespread voter fraud that doesn’t exist.
“It’s all about making it harder to vote because when turnout is low, the politicians in control are more likely to win,” said Sam Wercinski, executive director of the Arizona Advocacy Network. “When turnout is high, other people get elected.”
Wercinski says it’s ridiculous to think that wholesale groups of immigrants who are here illegally are plotting to vote in our elections. Instead, he says, Prop. 200 has affected thousands of citizens, primarily college students who don’t have acceptable identification under Prop. 200 when they go to register and so use the federal form.
Under Horne’s ruling, they’ll be voting only in the federal election unless they find that birth certificate or passport or other sort of document to prove to county elections officials that they’re citizens.
Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne says the ruling will affect only about 900 voters in Maricopa County. Wercinski, however, says it goes beyond those 900 because it’ll promote confusion which will reduce turnout at the polls next year and over time it’ll block thousands of voters from having a say in this state’s affairs.
I’ll leave it to others to decide which party wins and which one loses as a result of Horne’s ruling.
Me? I’m just astonished that Arizona has managed to score another first: the first in the nation to create two kinds of voters.
You know, separate but equal?
(Column published Oct. 8, 2013, The Arizona Republic.)