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Updated Jun 18, 2013 - 2:24 pm

Arizona congressmen want more flexible voter law

PHOENIX — Arizona lawmakers at the state and federal level are working on
separate efforts that would make it harder to vote in what Democrats are calling
an attack on low-income and Latino voters.

Arizona’s Republican U.S. Reps. Matt Salmon, Paul Gosar, David Schweikert and
Trent Franks announced on Tuesday legislation that would allow states to verify
voters’ U.S. citizenship after a Supreme Court ruling struck down a state law
targeting voters in the country illegally.

Meanwhile, Democratic state lawmakers urged Gov. Jan Brewer on Tuesday to veto
an election omnibus bill that would make it more difficult to obtain and return
a mail ballot. The bill was passed in the finals hours of the legislative
session that ended Friday and has drawn opposition from Latino voter outreach
groups.

“If it is disenfranchising one voter, than it is bad public policy,” said
Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, during a press conference at the Senate on
Tuesday aimed at rallying support against the election overhaul.

Arizona’s voting laws grabbed national headlines when the Supreme Court
released its 7-2 ruling Monday that said states can’t demand proof of
citizenship from people registering to vote in federal elections unless they get
federal or court approval to do so. Arizona voters approved Proposition 200 in
2004. It required a state driver’s license, birth certificate or passport to
register to vote. But the federal voter registration form simply requires people
to assert whether they are citizens or not.

The bill proposed by Arizona’s Republican congressmen would allow states to add
additional voter registration requirements.

“It is critical that we uphold the integrity of our voter registration system
by ensuring only U.S. citizens are permitted to cast a ballot,” Salmon said in
a statement.

Arizona can require voters who don’t use the federal registration form to
provide proof of citizenship when signing up to vote under the Supreme Court
ruling, but those voters can now use the federal form to sidestep that
requirement.

Opponents of the election omnibus bill also hope it will be challenged by the
federal government. Critics argue the measure is aimed at keeping Republicans in
power by creating new hurdles for some candidates and voters.

It would allow election officials to remove voters from the permanent early
voting list if they didn’t vote by mail in the two most recent general
elections. Voters could stay on the list if they returned a completed notice
within 30 days confirming their intent to vote by mail in the future. It also
prohibits groups from returning the mail ballots, including Latino voter
outreach efforts that often collect votes from low-income neighborhoods in the
days before elections.

“It’s been sold to us as a fix, it’s been sold to us as a cleanup, but the
reality is this is all about politics,” said Rep. Martin Quezada (D-Phoenix).

The bill also dramatically increases the number of signatures third-party
candidates need to get on the ballot.

“It’s an insurmountable hurdle,” said Barry Hess, a former Libertarian
gubernatorial candidate. “These are games. These are political egos and nothing
else.”

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