Rep. Salman: AZ Constitution needs amendment to protect right to vote

Rep. Athena Salman, D-Tempe, will introduce legislation to amend the Arizona Constitution and add a section to explicitly state the right to vote is a fundamental right, she said during a press conference Thursday.

Story by Laura Gómez, Arizona Mirror

Salman said the state constitution doesn’t do enough to ensure there’s a right to vote.  

“The protection does simply not exist,” Salman said. “We will be seeking to amend the state constitution so that the voters of Arizona understand that the highest governing document in Arizona protects the right to vote.”

Joel Edman, executive director of the Arizona Advocacy Network — a progressive nonprofit that advocates for voting rights — pointed to a Vanderbilt Law Review article from 2014 on the right-to-vote provisions in state constitutions.

The article said the Arizona Constitution is the only one in the country that does not include explicit language granting the right to vote. Instead, it uses implicit language, the review said.

“Only Arizona’s constitution does not explicitly grant the right to vote, instead stating that ‘[n]o person shall be entitled to vote … unless’ the person meets the citizenship, residency, and age requirements,” the review said. “Arizona is the lone exception; state constitutions are otherwise remarkably uniform in explicitly granting the states’ citizens the right to vote.”

Salman’s bill would change this section to assert every person is entitled to the right to vote, as long as they meet the existing eligibility requirements.

Her proposal also adds a section stating that “the right to vote is a fundamental right” and any law that restricts voting must be “narrowly tailored” to further a “compelling government interest.”

Salman said this would set a legal foundation to challenge laws aimed at limiting or restricting voting and put the burden of proof on legislators who want to pass such laws.

Salman is a member of the House elections committee, chaired by Rep. Kelly Townsend, R- Mesa.

Since Salman’s proposal is a constitutional amendment, it first needs to pass through both legislative chambers and would then to a statewide ballot to be ratified by voters.