PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona officials will seek to ban residents from voting in statewide races if they can't prove citizenship — a move that critics called vindictive in light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said the state couldn't require such documentation to cast ballots for federal offices.
The change was announced Monday by Attorney General Tom Horne and Secretary of State Ken Bennett, both Republicans.
"Because Arizona law requires a registration applicant to provide evidence of citizenship, registrants who have not provided sufficient evidence of citizenship should not be permitted to vote in state and local elections," Horne wrote in an opinion that was intended to give guidance on how to conduct the 2014 elections.
The Supreme Court in June struck down part of a 2004 voter-approved state law that required proof of legal U.S. residency to vote in any Arizona elections.
The only federal offices on Arizona ballots next year will be U.S. House seats. If Monday's change isn't overturned through legal action, residents who haven't submitted proof of citizenship won't be able vote for such offices as governor, secretary of state, attorney general and candidates for the state Legislature.
On their ballots, "they would just be getting the offices that they're eligible to cast their ballots for," Bennett spokesman Matt Roberts said.
However, Roberts acknowledged that a legal challenge is likely.
"We'll see how this shakes out, but elections officials don't get to wait and see. We'll be implementing," he said.
Dan Pochoda, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, called the move "ludicrous."
"At a minimum, it's a tremendous waste of resources at a time when people already are having to wait too long to vote in this state and it will deter voting for no good reason other than a vindictive attitude," Pochoda said. "There certainly appears to be possible serious concerns about legality."
The Arizona Democratic Party condemned the move as testing "the boundaries of absurdity."
"This will also create another confusing layer of bureaucracy to our voting system and potentially cost Arizona taxpayers millions of dollars," DJ Quinlan, the party's executive director, said in a statement.
The vast majority of Arizonans register by using a state form that requires proof of citizenship, such as a driver's license, U.S. birth certificate, passport or other similar document, a prerequisite under the voter-approved law.
The federal registration form requires registrants only to say they're citizens, but it doesn't require they submit proof.
Arizona and Kansas in August filed a lawsuit in an attempt to force the federal Election Assistance Commission to change its voter registration forms to compel proof of citizenship.