Biden administration sues US state

The Justice Department is suing the state over its requirement that voters prove they are US citizens

The Biden administration filed a lawsuit against Arizona on Tuesday over a law requiring proof of citizenship to vote in the southwestern state. While voting as a non-citizen is illegal under US federal law, the Justice Department has argued that asking for proof of citizenship is “unlawful and unnecessary.”

Arizona’s law, signed by Republican Governor Doug Ducey in March, would require voters to show documentary proof of citizenship – such as a state driving license or ID card – before casting their ballot, and task county officials with rejecting voter registration applications that don’t include proof of citizenship. The law would apply retroactively to voters who are already registered.

The government’s lawsuit alleges that these restrictions violate the National Voter Registration Act and the Civil Rights Act.

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“Arizona has passed a law that turns the clock back on progress by imposing unlawful and unnecessary requirements that would block eligible voters from the registration rolls for certain federal elections,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said in a statement.

While voting as a non-citizen is a federal crime in the US, no state actually asks for proof. Instead, voters must swear that they are citizens under penalty of perjury. Federal courts have previously shut down attempts by numerous states to require documentary proof of citizenship instead of this oath.

Ducey described the law as “a balanced approach that honors Arizona’s history of making voting accessible without sacrificing security in our elections.” According to his office, signing the bill was necessary, as more than 11,600 people cast their votes in Arizona in 2020 without providing proof of citizenship, while in Maricopa County alone – where Joe Biden won by 45,000 votes – there are currently more than 13,000 active voters who never provided this proof while registering.

Some 15 municipalities, including New York City and San Francisco, allowed non-citizens to vote in local elections as of this January. However, New York’s law has since been struck down by a state court.