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Arizona Settles Suit Over Handling of Voter Registration

Tom Tingle/The Arizona Republic

Arizona officials announced Monday a settled lawsuit that says thousands of residents are being disenfranchised by the way the state handled voter registration applications that don't provide proof of citizenship.

The suit filed by the League of United Latin American Citizens and Arizona Students' Association against Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan and Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes.

The lawsuit claimed the state's voter registration process was unduly burdensome, as people who use a state-produced application and fail to provide proof could not vote in both state and federal elections.

Plaintiffs wanted Arizona officials to register applicants who use the state form so that they can vote in federal elections, even if they don't provide proof.

The groups that challenged the registration practices said 26,000 voters in Maricopa County alone have been disenfranchised as a result of the state's policies.

Arizona had a voter-approved law that requires proof of citizenship when registering to vote. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that states can't demand proof of citizenship from people who are registering to vote in federal elections.

That decision led the state to set up a two-tier voting system that allows people who didn't provide citizenship proof to vote only in federal races, meaning they can't cast ballots for candidates in state races, such as governor and attorney general.

A sample of 2,000 rejected state-form registrations in eight of Arizona's 15 counties that didn't contain citizenship proof found that less than 15 percent of them successfully re-registered after getting notice of the rejection, according to the lawsuit.

"Voters will now have the clarity they need along with a heightened level of election integrity," Reagan said in a statement.

"We are pleased that the bureaucratic nightmare in Arizona is coming to an end," Danielle Lang said, senior legal counsel, voting rights and redistricting at the Campaign Legal Center.

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