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Thousands of Arizonans are being denied right to vote, lawsuit claims

FILE - In this March 18, 2014 file photo, voters cast their ballots in Hinsdale, Ill. Voter rights advocates are suddenly pushing Illinois election officials to withdraw from a longtime multi-state voter registration database over questions of accuracy, security and voter suppression. They're also raising fresh questions about the head of the program, controversial Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach who's also helping run President Donald Trump's voter fraud commission. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

PHOENIX — Thousands of Arizonans are being denied the right to vote by the way the state is handling voter registration applications that don’t provide proof of citizenship, according to a new lawsuit.

The League of United Latin American Citizens and Arizona Students’ Association said in the lawsuit that people who use a registration application produced by the state and fail to provide citizenship proof can’t vote in both state and federal elections.

The groups want a judge to order election officials to register applicants who use the state form so that they can vote in federal elections, even if they don’t provide evidence of citizenship.

The case against Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan and Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes said would-be voters who are without citizenship proof and use a federal registration form are allowed to vote in only federal elections.

But if those same people used the state registration form, the suit said they aren’t registered to vote in both state and federal elections.

Arizona has a voter-approved law that requires proof of citizenship when registering to vote. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that states can’t demand proof of citizenship from people who are registering to vote in federal elections.

The decision led the state to set up a two-tier voting system that allows people who didn’t provide citizenship proof to vote in just federal races, meaning they can’t cast ballots for candidates in state races, such as governor and attorney general.

The groups challenging the registration practices say 26,000 voters in Maricopa County alone have been disenfranchised as a result of the state’s policies.

A sample of 2,000 rejected state-form registrations in eight of Arizona’s 15 counties that didn’t contain citizenship proof found that less than 15 percent of them successfully re-registered after getting notice of the rejection, according to the lawsuit.

Reagan issued a statement saying Arizona hasn’t gotten any complaints in the elections since voters passed the 2004 proof-of-citizenship requirement.

“So it’s puzzling to understand why this lawsuit is being filed now,” Reagan said. “I think voters still want the state to verify eligibility to vote so that we can ensure election integrity and discourage fraud.”

Karen Loschiavo, a spokeswoman for Fontes’ office, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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