Few affected by new voting rules; implementation costs unknown
10/18/2013 6:00:00 AM
By Suzanne Adams-Ockrassa
KINGMAN - Only a handful of Mohave County voters will have to worry about getting a copy of their proof of citizenship to the County Voter Registration Department before the next general election.
Only four registered voters in the county don't have their citizenship verified by the department, said supervisor Kim Stewart.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne ruled earlier this month that counties are required to provide a separate ballot to voters who have not verified that they are legal citizens of the U.S. Horne claims that the new rule will reduce voter fraud. Opponents of the rule say it will disenfranchise thousands of voters.
Arizona residents have a choice of two voter registration forms they can fill out. One is a federal form, which requires a person to sign a statement swearing they are a legal citizen of the U.S. The other is a state form that requires a person to provide their driver's license number to prove their citizenship.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that Arizona couldn't require people who are voting in a federal election to provide additional proof of citizenship.
Horne interpreted that ruling as allowing the state to continue to require additional proof of citizenship for all state and local elections. Voters who haven't proven their citizenship to the state won't get a ballot with state and local elections on it. They'll only get a ballot listing the federal races and issues.
Verifying citizenship for voter registration in Arizona is fairly easy, Stewart said. When staff enters a new voter into the rolls, the system automatically checks Arizona Department of Motor Vehicle and Social Security records to see if the person is a citizen.
Occasionally, the search comes up empty and then her office sends a letter to the voter asking them to bring in their Arizona driver's license or some other proof of citizenship, she said.
The tricky part is going to be dealing with the new ballots at the polls, Stewart said.
The state's entire voter registration and election system will have to be revamped, she said.
She estimated that Mohave County will have to add 80 new ballot styles to the more than 600 it already has on file in order to accommodate the two types of ballots.
"It's going to put a lot of pressure on poll workers and voters," Stewart said.
Poll workers will also have to be trained to use the new system and how to deal with irate voters who find out they're not going to be able to vote in the local and state elections, she said.
"We're waiting on the state to figure out how to handle this," Stewart said. "I'm just glad we're not one of the bigger counties, like Maricopa."
It will also cost a pretty penny to revamp the entire system, she said.
Stewart said her office hasn't calculated the costs yet, but believes that most of the changes will be paid for by the state.
"Usually, if (the counties) request a change in the system, we pay for it. If the state makes a change it usually pays for it," she said.
A cost figure for the entire state was not available, but Cronkite News Service pegged it at around $250,000 for Maricopa County, which has around 900 people who haven't provided additional proof of citizenship.
The news service estimated that at least 1,400 voters statewide would be affected by the new rule.
"My main concern is that everyone gets a chance to vote," Stewart said, "I don't want anyone disenfranchised because they didn't want to give us their driver's license number."
The Arizona Secretary of State's Office is working on the verbiage for a new letter to alert voters that they need to bring in additional citizenship information or they won't be able to vote in the next state or local election, Stewart said.
But there are always a few people who forget and are going to be surprised at the polls when they're handed a ballot with only the federal offices on it.