Arizona’s Secretary of State Ken Bennett is denouncing an emergency motion by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund to count the ballots of any individuals who attempted to register to vote but were rejected because they couldn’t prove they were citizens.
Representatives from MALDEF could not be reached for immediate comment, but the motion comes follwing the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision to strike down Arizona’s requirement — passed by voters in 2004 — that individuals show proof of citizenship when registering to vote.
The decision, which essentially determined the restrictions were in conflict with federal attempts to make voting more accessible, did not have any immediate impact on the elections, given that the registration period ended in early October.
This motion applies to registration applications rejected in the 90 days before the registration cutoff.
In its motion, MALDEF noted that there would be irreparable harm without a stay because voters would be disenfranchised because of the "unfair and inflexible" registration requirements. "Continued application of Prop. 200 thwarts the fundamental right to vote," the motion states.
The motion also states there is no evidence that failing to enforce the requirements will result in massive voter fraud.
But Bennett said in a statement that the request "constitutes a real danger to the integrity of Arizona elections. These individuals’ attempts to register to vote were rejected according to state law because they wouldn’t – or couldn’t – prove they were U.S. citizens. The notion of now forcing counties and the state to count any ballots they may have cast is abhorrent and would harm our ability to ensure safe and secure elections.”
Bennett said it would “grind the tabulation process to a halt” as counties search for those who had tried to register, and then went ahead and cast provisional ballots anyway.
“The 9th Circuit Court decision to strike down our citizenship requirement was an injustice and one I intend to fight. But this new motion to apply that ruling retroactively would only compound the error,” Secretary Bennett said. “We must not open Arizona’s voting booths to individuals who may not be United States citizens.”