Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, who leads the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, announced a lawsuit against the state of Arizona for violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the National Registration Act of 1993. Clarke shared the news during a press conference Tuesday afternoon.
The complaint challenges a new Arizona law that Clarke says imposes on federal-only voters.
“House Bill 2492’s onerous documentary proof of citizenship requirement for certain federal elections constitutes a textbook violation of the National Voter Registration Act,” Clarke said. “For nearly three decades, the National Voter Registration Act has helped to move states in the right direction. By eliminating unnecessary requirements that have historically made it harder for eligible voters to access the registration rolls.”
According to Clarke, the new law Arizona House Bill 2492 interferes with federal protections for voter registration. Specifically, the bill requires proof of citizenship for certain federal elections. The law is set to take effect in January 2023. Clarke said the demand for proof of citizenship is a “textbook violation of the National Voter Registration Act.”
She also called Arizona a “repeat offender,” noting state officials tried to pass a similar law that would prevent voters who do not establish proof of citizenship from voting. In Arizona, voters are required to show proof of citizenship to vote in state and local elections. Voters unable to meet the additional burden are only permitted to vote in federal elections.
From the Arizona Secretary of State’s website, few documents can be used to prove citizenship, including a driver’s license. Unfortunately, not every person eligible to vote can access the limited forms of identification used to establish citizenship.
As previously explained by the Brennan Center, “documentary proof of citizenship” such as passports and birth certificates poses an undue burden on thousands of otherwise eligible American voters. Similar to virtually non-existent voter fraud, cases of non-citizens voting are rare.
In addition to the recent Arizona lawsuit, the DOJ provided a fact sheet outlining several enforcement actions taken by the Civil Rights Division to protect voting rights across the country. Actions range from consent decrees and agreements to lawsuits.
The Civil Rights Division has taken steps to protect the rights of voters with disabilities in St. Louis and New Jersey and has sued states like Georgia and Texas for broader violations of federal voting and civil rights law. With the Senate failing to pass significant voting rights reforms last year, Clarke’s leadership in the DOJ has become necessary in protecting people’s right to vote within the bounds of existing laws.
“This lawsuit reflects our deep commitment to using every available tool to protect all Americans’ right to vote and to ensure that their voices are heard in our democracy,” Clarke explained.