PHOENIX — Barred by the Supreme Court from requiring proof of citizenship for federal elections, Arizona is complying — but setting up a separate registration system for local and state elections that will demand such proof.
The state this week joined Kansas in planning for such a two-tiered voting system, which could keep thousands of people from participating in state and local elections.
The states are using an opening left by a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in June that said the power of Congress over federal elections was paramount but that did not rule on proof of citizenship in state elections. Such proof was required under Arizona's Proposition 200, which passed in 2004.
The two states are also jointly suing the federal Election Assistance Commission, arguing that the agency should change the federal voter registration form for their states to include state proof-of-citizenship requirements. While the agency has previously denied such requests, the Supreme Court said the states could try again, and seek judicial review of those decisions.
"If you require evidence of citizenship, it helps prevent people who are not citizens from voting," said Tom Horne, the Arizona attorney general.
The two-tiered system — deemed costly, cumbersome and prone to confusion by many of its opponents — threatens to derail an effort by Democrats and their allies to boost voter turnout.
"It's another veiled attempt at discouraging young voters, low-income voters, Latino voters from entering the electoral process," said Petra Falcon, executive director of Promise Arizona in Action, one of the groups leading voter-registration efforts here.
In Kansas, for state elections, people who fail to provide the proper documentation will have their voter registrations suspended until they do; so far, more than 18,000 have been suspended, or about one-third of all voters registered this year in Kansas.
The Kansas secretary of state, Kris Kobach, said the two-tiered system was a "contingency plan" in case Kansas and Arizona do not prevail in court.