Arizona’s Secretary of State Agrees to Drop Burdensome Voter Registration Requirement Following Lawsuit


JUNE 4, 2018

Tens of thousands may now be enfranchised that were denied because of unnecessary bureaucracy

PHOENIX– Today, the Campaign Legal Center (CLC) and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law reached a settlement agreement with the Secretary of State of Arizona and the Maricopa County Recorder over a lawsuit on behalf of League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and Arizona Students’ Association (ASA) challenging the state’s overly burdensome voter registration process. When the lawsuit was filed, Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes chose not to take a position on the merits of the lawsuit. The Secretary and Recorder have agreed to nearly all of the requested changes.

Attorneys anticipate this will result in the enfranchisement of tens of thousands of voters in Arizona whose voter registrations were rejected because of unnecessary bureaucracy. Spencer G. Scharff, Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger, and Luis Roberto Vera, Jr. served as private co-counsel in the case.

“Barriers to registration stand as one of the greatest threats to democracy today. As a result of our litigation, Arizona is taking steps to ensure that Arizona’s voter registration process is open and more equitable for all Arizona residents,” said Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Ensuring equal access to the voting box for eligible voters is critical in maintaining an open and fair democratic process and this settlement helps ensure that more voters will have their voices heard this election cycle.”

Going forward, Arizona will treat all registrants the same regardless of whether they use the state or federal form, easing a registration process that was one of the most complicated in the country. The state will register all voters for federal elections. Although Arizona will continue to enforce its documentary proof of citizenship requirement for state elections, it will check the motor vehicles database for citizenship documentation before limiting voters to federal-only elections. This will ensure that voters will not be turned away from any election when the state already has the information it says it needs.

“Secretary Reagan’s agreement to these commonsense changes is an affirmation that democracy works best when all citizens can vote without barriers,” said Danielle Lang, senior legal counsel, voting rights and redistricting at CLC. “Our lawsuit will successfully protect eligible Arizonans from being unfairly prevented from registering to vote and participating in federal elections because of unnecessary requirements. We are pleased that the bureaucratic nightmare in Arizona is coming to an end.”

“This is a victory for Arizona students,” said Shayna Stevens, outgoing executive director of the Arizona Students’ Association, a student-led nonprofit organization that conducts outreach to promote student voting. “For lawmakers to hear the student voice, students must have easy access to voting. We are thrilled that students will no longer be required to fill out duplicate forms or dig up their original birth certificates and passports, which made access to the ballot difficult for no reason.”

“This settlement is a key victory in the fight for fair and equal access to elections across the country,” said Andrew Schwartz, a partner in Shute Mihaly & Weinberger LLP, co-counsel with CLC.

After learning from state advocates that Arizona’s system had disenfranchised at least 26,000 eligible voters in Maricopa County alone, CLC and its partners filed a legal complaint on behalf LULAC and ASA with the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona on Nov. 7, 2017 challenging the state’s dual registration system as an undue burden on the right to vote and the Constitution’s promise of equal protection. Read CLC’s case pagefor background information.