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ACLU lawsuit accuses Arizona election officials of voter rights violations

(Facebook Photo/Michele Reagan)

PHOENIX — Less than two weeks before Arizona’s primary election, three voting rights organizations filed a lawsuit Saturday against Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan over alleged federal voter rights violations.

The American Civil Liberties Union is representing the League of Women Voters of Arizona, Mi Familia Vota Education Fund and Promise Arizona in the suit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court of Arizona.

Reagan told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Monday that the terms of the lawsuit would only confuse voters, not help them.

“What it would do would cause massive confusion for 500,000 voters right before an election. We do not think that’s fair for voters at all,” she said.

Under the National Voter Registration Act, aka the Motor Voter Act, when an address change is made during a transaction with a state motor vehicle agency, that information gets sent to election officials, who must update voter registration records with the new addresses.

“That is not taking place in Arizona,” Ceridwen Cherry, attorney for the ACLU Voting Rights Project, told KTAR. “As a result, up to 500,000 people did not have their voter registration address updated, as it should be under federal law.”

The lawsuit claims a failure to update the addresses could prevent many qualified voters from being able to participate in this year’s elections.

Cherry said the lawsuit asked the court for two actions.

One was to require the secretary of state to count votes cast in federal elections, regardless of whether the ballot was cast at the voter’s previous or current polling location.

The second was for Reagan’s office to mail notifications to anybody affected.

“That mailer would give them the opportunity to update their voter registration and also inform them about how they can find their correct polling information for their address,” Cherry said.

Reagan’s office last week rejected a request from the ACLU to change more than 500,000 voter registration addresses to what is listed on driver’s licenses. She cited concerns about a lack of voters’ consent.

Reagan said a fix to the problem involving all entities that handle voter registration in the state, including county recorders and the Arizona Department of Transportation, already was in the pipeline for 2019.

“We just think that this lawsuit is kind of them stomping their feet saying, ‘Well, that’s not quick enough,'” she said.

“We’re not going to be sending out a half a million letters to voters this late in the game. It would be too confusing.”

Cherry said voters can visit the secretary of state’s website to see if if their information has been updated.

“I don’t think we know exactly how many of them aren’t accurate,” Reagan said. “We just know that people are going to be able to go to the same polling place that they’re used to going to.

“And that’s what the whole point of rejecting this lawsuit, or this agreement, is. We don’t want to change things for people this late in the game.”

Reagan is up for re-election and is facing a stiff challenge from businessman Steve Gaynor in the Aug. 28 Republican primary.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Griselda Zetino and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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