The Biden administration sued Arizona on Tuesday over a state law requiring voters to show proof of citizenship before casting a ballot in a presidential election.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed into law in March a bill mandating that voters show documentary proof of citizenship in order to vote by mail or vote in a federal election. The Department of Justice challenged the law in court, arguing that the mandate is redundant and unconstitutional.
“House Bill 2492’s onerous documentary proof of citizenship requirement for certain federal elections constitutes a textbook violation of the National Voter Registration Act,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said in a statement.
“Arizona has passed a law that turns the clock back on progress by imposing unlawful and unnecessary requirements that would block eligible voters from the registration rolls for certain federal elections,” Clarke added.
The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division is leading the lawsuit. The lawsuit argues that the Arizona law violates the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which requires that voters before participating in a federal election fill out a federal form. While the form does not require documented proof of citizenship, it does ask under penalty of perjury whether or not one is a citizen.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich responded to the lawsuit in a post on Twitter: “It’s another round of Brnovich v. Biden as his DOJ continues its attempts to undermine our election integrity laws. I will see you in court. Again.”
Ducey signed House Bill 2492 into law on March 30, describing the bill as a “balanced approach that honors Arizona’s history of making voting accessible without sacrificing security in our elections.” The law is set to go into effect in January 2023.
“Federal law prohibits non-citizens from voting in federal elections. Arizona law prohibits non-citizens from voting for all state and local offices, and requires proof of citizenship,” Ducey said in a letter. “H.B. 2492 provides clarity to Arizona law on how officials process federal form voter registration applications that lack evidence of citizenship.”
According to Ducey’s office, 11,600 federal-only voters cast a ballot in the 2020 election without having to show documented proof of citizenship, as is required for state elections.
Arizona has required documented proof of citizenship to vote in federal elections before, though the previous law was struck down by the Supreme Court. In 2004, Arizona residents voted in favor of Proposition 200, which required all Arizona voters to provide proof of citizenship before casting a ballot in any election.
The Supreme Court in struck down the law in a 7-2 decision. The court’s opinion, written by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, held that the ballot measure violated the NVRA and barred Arizona “from requiring a Federal Form applicant to submit information beyond that required by the form itself.”
Justice Clarence Thomas dissented from the opinion, writing that the majority’s interpretation of the law conflicted with states’ constitutional authority “to determine the qualifications of voters in federal elections, which necessarily includes the related power to determine whether those qualifications are satisfied.”
“To avoid substantial constitutional problems” created by the majority’s interpretation of the NVRA, Thomas wrote, “I would construe the law as only requiring Arizona to accept and use the form as part of its voter registration process, leaving the State free to request whatever additional information it.”