GOP Files Emergency Motion to Block Voting Without Proof of Citizenship for 2024 Race

The Republican National Committee on July 1 filed an emergency motion to stay a lower court decision.

The Republican National Committee (RNC) and members of Arizona’s state Legislature filed a motion on July 1 to stay a federal court order to block certain voters who registered with a federal voter registration form from voting in the November elections.

RNC Chairman Michael Whatley said in a statement that the emergency motion was filed because the RNC believes that “noncitizen voting compromises our elections” and is “committed to stopping it.”

At issue is an Arizona election law that was passed in 2022, HB 2492, which made it legal to require proof of citizenship to partake in elections in Arizona. A second 2022 law, HB 2243, which mandated the reporting of the number of voters in the state who didn’t list the status of their citizenship, has also been challenged.

Voting rights groups filed lawsuits against both measures, and U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton found that parts of the legislation circumvented federal voting laws, although other portions of the two laws were upheld.

One of the groups that filed the lawsuit, Campaign Legal, described the two provisions as “discriminatory” and claimed that one “denied the freedom to vote to Arizonans who did not list their birthplace on the state registration form” and the other requires “county officials to investigate naturalized Arizonans’ citizenship status without good cause.”

Earlier this year, Judge Bolton concluded that Arizona legislators did not discriminate when they adopted the two laws and that the state does have an interest in preventing voter fraud and limiting voting to individuals who are eligible to vote.

However, the judge said HB 2492’s requirement for individuals using a state registration form to include their state or country of birth violates a provision of the Civil Rights Act and a section of the National Voter Registration Act. Doing so would result in the investigation of only naturalized citizens based on county recorders’ subjective beliefs that a naturalized individual is a noncitizen, she explained.

On June 28, she again ruled that those portions of the laws should be struck down, prompting the emergency motion on July 1.The RNC filed its motion with the San Francisco-based U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is currently hearing the case, in a bid to overrule Judge Bolton’s most recent decision, seeking to keep the state registration form provision intact.

It argued in part that portions of the law that Judge Bolton had blocked should be kept in place during the ongoing appeal process because it would affect the upcoming presidential election.

“The district court did not engage with the Constitution’s text because it thought that it was bound by precedent,” the RNC’s motion reads. “But no court has decided this issue. The Supreme Court has never held that Congress possesses power to regulate the ‘Places and Manner’ of presidential elections.”

And, it added, “if the district court erred in interdicting the implementation of voter registration reforms adopted nearly two years ago (and it did),” a statute known as the Purcell principle, which established that courts shouldn’t change voting or election rules so close to an election that voters will be confused, “neither requires nor licenses this Court to compound the federal judiciary’s mistaken incursion into Arizona’s democratic process.”

Mr. Whatley said U.S. elections “should be decided by Americans.”

Arizona’s GOP chair, Gina Swoboda, added that “any vote cast by a non-citizen dilutes those votes and risks silencing those voices.”

“This is a very real problem in Arizona, and we are committed to resolving it,” she said.

Democratic Secretary of State Adrian Fontes had asked the court to deny the RNC’s request and allow portions of that law to remain blocked by Judge Bolton because it’s too close to the election.

“Election officials across Arizona are preparing for what is expected to be a very active 2024 election cycle,” Mr. Fontes’s office wrote to the court.

In her March decision, Judge Bolton wrote that other parts of the laws that require counties to verify voters’ registration status if they haven’t provided proof of U.S. citizenship can be kept. She also ruled that a portion that requires cross-checking voter registration information with government databases can be kept intact.

At the time, Judge Bolton wrote that “considering the evidence as a whole, the court concludes that Arizona’s interests in preventing non-citizens from voting and promoting public confidence in Arizona’s elections outweighs the limited burden voters might encounter when required to provide” documentary proof of citizenship.

Data provided by the Arizona attorney general’s office have shown that it has not prosecuted anyone who was a noncitizen and illegally voted in elections since 2010.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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