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Unnecessary ‘Proof of Citizenship’ Voting Laws May Surge Under Trump, Suppressing Turnout

| November 19, 2017

voter suppression

Or not. (c FlaglerLive)

Emboldened both by President Donald Trump’s (false) claim that millions of noncitizens voted in 2016 and by his creation of a panel to investigate the alleged fraud, lawmakers in several states want to require people registering to vote to provide proof of their citizenship – even though federal registration forms don’t require it.


This year at least four states – Kansas, Maryland, Texas and Virginia – considered proof of citizenship measures, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. That means residents must provide documentation such as a passport or birth certificate when registering to vote.

But that gets confusing. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states may not require proof of citizenship for those who use the federal registration form, which states are required to accept. It didn’t bar them from requiring such documents for state elections, so states can set up a dual registration system—in which voters who lack proof of citizenship can register and vote in only federal elections.

Arizona is the only state that has such a system—so far.  Critics say it is so complex that it prevents many voters from participating in elections for which they are eligible. 

Alabama and Georgia also passed laws, in 2011 and 2009 respectively, that require proof of citizenship in order to register but neither has implemented them, citing the complications of operating a bifurcated system. 

“That’s an election administration nightmare, if nothing else,” said Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, a Republican. “You’d have to have two sets of poll books, one for federal elections and one for state elections, and that just doesn’t make any sense to me.”

Nevertheless, voting rights groups are afraid that a sympathetic Trump administration will prompt many more states to pursue proof of citizenship requirements for state elections. 

Jonathan Brater of the Brennan Center for Justice said Trump’s claims of illegal voting might be used to justify new restrictions, while Trump’s Election Integrity Commission includes members who have long supported requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Justice has sent letters to states asking how they maintain their voter registration lists. And some in Congress want to eliminate the federal Election Assistance Commission, created in the wake of the disputed 2000 presidential election to provide voluntary voting guidelines for states.

“This particular constellation of issues, where we have a president himself making claims about voting systems at time when faith in the election system is quite low, this is a threat we have not seen,” Brater said.

Bob Popper of Judicial Watch, which supports requiring proof of citizenship to vote, said the dual registration systems that result from the differing requirements will likely need a federal-level resolution.

“This fighting over dual registration and over what the federal [voter registration] form does and doesn’t require is really peripheral to the basic issue,” he said, which is: “Should … individuals who register to vote be required to prove U.S. citizenship?”

Confusing Arizona

In a lawsuit filed last week, the Campaign Legal Center contends that Arizona’s bifurcated system, which voters approved by ballot initiative in 2004, is so unwieldy that many voters end up being excluded from elections for which they are eligible to vote.  The group estimates that at least 26,000 people in Maricopa County, the largest in Arizona, have been disenfranchised by the policy. 

Arizona election officials run the names of those who register using the federal form against the citizenship information they have on file through the state’s driver’s license database. If the state already has citizenship information for that person, he or she is registered to vote in all elections. If not, that person is only registered to vote in federal elections. 

The state does not make that extra effort for those who register using the state form. If they don’t attach proof of citizenship they don’t get registered to vote at all—stopping them from voting in federal elections even though they are eligible to do so.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with your eligibility or what document you provide, it only has to do with what piece of paper you write it on,” said Danielle Lang, a lawyer with the Campaign Legal Center who is working on the case. “And that just makes no sense.”

Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes, a Democrat who is one of the named defendants in the suit, says the current practice is denying citizens the right to vote. When he took office earlier this year, the county had just over 96,000 forms from people who had tried to register to vote since 2005 but who had not attached proof of citizenship. More than half of those people never followed up to register, but in slowly running their information through DMV records, the office found citizenship information for nearly 1,500 people.

Fontes wouldn’t comment on the ongoing litigation, but he told the Los Angeles Times in May that Arizona’s different approaches depending on the form may not be legal.

“Where voters are treated differently, with the government on one hand assisting voters and on the other hand preventing them from voting, that violates substantive due process, and there is no rational basis for it.”

In an email, Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan’s office said she was working to comply with the 2004 initiative.

“Over the past decade we’ve gone through five election cycles electing two presidents and dozens of congressional representatives. While it’s puzzling to understand why this lawsuit is being filed now, I think voters still want the state to verify eligibility to ensure election integrity and discourage fraud,” Reagan said in a prepared statement from her office.

The Campaign Legal Center argues that the process puts an undue burden on those trying to exercise their right to vote, particularly since county data requested by the group found that fewer than 15 percent of those who did not initially turn in documentation with their state form returned with proper documentation later.

Blocked in Kansas

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican who is also the vice chairman of the Trump administration’s Commission on Election Integrity, has long advocated for a proof of citizenship requirement. But his attempts to implement such a system in Kansas have been blocked by the courts. 

A Kansas judge, for example, last year blocked the state from using a dual registration system in the 2016 election, citing a state “universal registration” law that requires registered voters be permitted to vote in every level of an election. Arizona does not have a similar law on the books, Lang said. 

“There’s no factual basis for that requirement. There’s not a problem of citizenship impersonation fraud among voters; there’s just no evidence that that’s a real thing,” said Doug Bonney, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas.

Kobach’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment, but in court filings he has emphasized that federal voting law does not bar states from requiring proof of citizenship. 

–Rebecca Beitsch, Stateline

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24 Responses for “Unnecessary ‘Proof of Citizenship’ Voting Laws May Surge Under Trump, Suppressing Turnout”

  1. Common Sense says:

    More republican insanity. I always thought the republicans were about saving money? All I’ve seen so far is an incredible lack of disregard for the tax payers money since 45 took office. The worst of it comes from 45 and his personal family, followed by his cabinet. MILLIONS of dollars spent in personal travel and non essentials all the tax payer’s dime. The list grows by the day of this insane spending, yet not a peep out of these so called conservatives?? Where is the outrage? Oh wait….if it is the REPUBLICANS doing the insane out of control spending, then it’s ok???? Kind of like when it is the republicans fondling women against their will, that’s ok too. Yeah…I SO get the picture here.

  2. Wishful Thinking says:

    Illegal voters have changed the course of history in 2000. With no proof of citizenship required more than 30 years ago people were registering in different precincts, under different names, using different addresses ( as long as the address is valid and the people who live at that address don’t give the mail back to the post office – the post office delivers to that address.
    People were PAID to register to vote in multiple precincts – easy as pie – in Venezuela years ago when the country was sane voters got a stamp on their ‘cedulas’ ( ID cards).. In some countries a black ink stamp that takes 2 days to wash off is used to prevent multiple voting.

    Anyone born in the USA can obtain proof of birth even if born in a cabin in the wilderness. Total crap about hardship … Just remember this:
    Nobody however can leave the US and expect to return without paying lots of $$$$ US Passport which you can’t get unless you provide PROOF of citizenship to the State Department with a fat check, and clear recent front face photo
    What is more important to the sanctity of our democracy – a valid passport to travel or a legal vote to insure our democracy?

  3. Really says:

    Buffoonery

  4. Diane Gelles says:

    I have been voting since I was 18 years old & have never had to provide proof of citizenship either in Ga, or Florida, you a full of baloney. Illegals were not voting that is just fake news from the Trump crowd because he could not stand he actually lost by almost 3 million votes, he is a horrible president & is ruining our reputation in this country & world wide. The supreme court said you can’t do that in Federal elections & trying to hurt people locally shows the pettiness of these stupid people who only care about themselves, not American citizens.

  5. Gkimp says:

    No legal voter,should oppose voter ID laws.

  6. John Smith says:

    If you are not a u.s. citizen you are not allowed to vote. What is the problem here?

  7. Mike B says:

    EVERY person voting should be required to show a valid ID. It is insane to say that this is unfair in any way. An ID is available to anyone that takes the time to obtain one.

  8. mark101 says:

    I think a proof of citizenship should be required to vote. After all, if you want to be an American Citizen complete the process. In Great Britian, you have to be a citizen to vote in a general election.

  9. I Be Erudite says:

    People who are not citizens do vote in elections and some have been caught. The numbers are not at all likely to be anywhere near what Trump claims. That being said, the Bush/Gore election was decided by like 400-500 votes so it is entirely conceivable that unlawful voting could throw an election. A bigger concern that never gets talked about is how illegal aliens skew the electoral college. Every ten years the United States conducts a census to count how many people live in the country. The census counts everyone regardless of citizenship status. States are apportioned a number of Congressional seats based upon that count. California currently gets 55 electoral votes based upon their census count. Even if this represents only 10% more illegals than other states, California conceivably gets 5-6 more electoral votes than they would otherwise receive. According to PewHispanic.org, 60% of all illegal aliens live in the six largest states. Four of those six are blue states, one (Florida) is a swing state but likely to turn blue in future elections, and Texas remains red but for how long? These six states alone comprise 191 of 270 electoral votes required to win the Presidency. So please tell again why illegal aliens have no i pact on elections! http://www.pewhispanic.org/interactives/unauthorized-immigrants/

  10. Sherry says:

    A “conspiracy theorist” now lives in “the people’s” house. . . how about discussing actual FACTS? This from factcheck.org: http://www.factcheck.org/2016/10/trumps-bogus-voter-fraud-claims/

  11. Eric Hollis says:

    Why do people cry when asked for proof of citizenship? I would just make the election fair.
    I’m Kommifornia where I grew up 2 million illegals voted? All good if your a Democrat. Democrats are not on the US citizens side.
    My mom who was Argentine had to vote ( its mandatory there) and show her proof of citizenship, why can’t we have that here?
    Rigged election, we all know who rigged it. Let’s fix the problem, not blame Russia

  12. Michael Bolchunas says:

    I have never understood the idiocy of this argument… why wouldn’t you have to show your birth certificate or naturalization certificate when you register to vote? Only citizens can vote, so show proof that you are… you have to these days even if you update your driver’s license…

  13. Michael Bolchunas says:

    Hey, let’s have disabled people not have to prove that they’re disabled for benefits… or let’s give out Medicaid and food stamps without verification of income… paperwork is such a burden… suppression…

  14. Concerned Observer says:

    Commenters, please stay on point. This article has nothing whatsoever with “insane spending”, political travel, paying taxes or woman’s rights. Nor is it an underhanded and dastardly Republican plot to keep authorized voters from casting their ballot. Enough Trump beating. It’s about authorized voters. No need to reiterate Wishful Thinking’s comments here, his or her comments are all valid. When I registered to vote, all I needed to show was some document attesting that I lived within the precinct to which I was registering. If “federal registration forms don’t require it” as stated in this article, it only proves that this bill is necessary to close that hole. Please stop whining about who won or lost an election. This bill protects our electoral process. End of story.

  15. Katie Semore says:

    Most of the few cases where people have been found to have voted illegally, they were registered as Republicans and admitted to have voted for Republican candidates.

  16. ,MR G says:

    All for it if your not a citizen here YOU CANT VOTE…… VERY SIMPLE…..

  17. Anonymous says:

    The only way voter turnout will reduce during the Trump Administration is that those that illegal or not eligible WON’T vote….because they know Trump knows there is voter fraud all over this country and he won’t tolerate it. People worry about their personal information being shared…..what about the Florida Voter Registration Database being hacked several times over the past couple of years? Oh, that’s right, we were told no information was compromised. We have a Secretary of State who is not seeing that Felons who voted in past elections are prosecuted and the Statewide voter registration data base is barely alive. When it the last time it was updated and maintained? It would be a nightmare if voters didn’t have to prove citizenship. Fraud would be worse than it is now. Whey do you think the Driver’s Licenses were revamped…..too much fraud with the old ones. If you have nothing to hide and you are proud to be an American you will have no problem proving your citizenship. Everyone comes with a birth certificate. Those that were born back in the day at home who may not have a birth certificate are far and few.

  18. Sherry says:

    All who keep claiming there is “Massive” voter fraud. . . please cite the sources for your “proven” FACTS!

  19. Sherry says:

    Why is it that the same people who want “iron clad” proof of citizenship to vote are often the same ones who do NOT insist on “iron clad” background checks before buying multiple assault rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition?

  20. tym othy says:

    people who drive drunk hate drunk driving laws.

  21. tym othy says:

    how much voter fraud is acceptable to you?

  22. Pete says:

    Because the two are completely different subjects.

    Really, what is so difficult to understand about this.

    You’ve got to show ID when you fly. And that’s only a privilege. Why shouldn’t a citizen proof who they claim to be when exercising their right to vote.

  23. Pete says:

    For those commentators stating that voter fraud only involves Republicans you should therefore be in favor of providing ID to vote!

  24. Sherry says:

    Voter Identification IS required to register to vote! The problem is. . . voter ID requirements are different in every state. Hey. . . I thought Republicans wanted the “federal” government closed, and everything to be at the state level.

    A “requirement” to carry around your “birth certificate” is ridiculous! Your birth certificate doesn’t suffice because it doesn’t provide necessary data such as your current address. Besides. . . next, we’ll be hearing that birth certificates can be forged.

    Face it. . . there is NO “massive” voter fraud, and this whole argument is nothing short of an attempt to alienate those who are not lily white.

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