Mar 11, 12:33 PM EST
Federal commission says proof of citizenship not needed
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- A ruling by a federal commission that says voters who register using a nationwide form don't have to prove they are citizens is drawing howls of protest from state elections officials.
Monday's ruling by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission amounts to a potential loophole in Proposition 200, the voter-approved initiative that made Arizona the first state in the nation to require proof of citizenship for voter registration.
The ruling says "Arizona may not refuse to register individuals to vote in a federal election for failing to provide supplemental proof of citizenship," as required under Proposition 200.
The ruling was requested by Secretary of State Jan Brewer, who called the outcome of her request "outlandish" and asked the state attorney general to review it.
"I certainly have concerns about this," Brewer said. "I don't believe they're correct."
A spokeswoman for Attorney General Terry Goddard said the office is reviewing the ruling but that Proposition 200 will be enforced in the meantime.
A three-page letter to Brewer from the commission's executive director said that imposing additional citizenship requirements on anyone using a federal registration form could result in a loss of voting rights.
"No state may condition acceptance of the federal form upon receipt of additional proof" of citizenship, wrote Thomas R. Wilkey.
The federal form was created and is regulated by the commission and only requires that a voter certify under oath to being a citizen. They are available on the commission's Web site, http://www.eac.gov .
Proposition 200 requires county election officials to reject registration forms not accompanied by "satisfactory evidence of United States citizenship," such as a birth certificate, passport, tribal ID card or an Arizona driver's license issued after Oct. 1, 1996, when proof of legal residency for licenses became necessary.
It also requires voters to show a photo ID or two other forms of identification, such as a utility bill or bank statement, to get a ballot.
The initiative survived numerous legal challenges before it passed muster with the U.S. Department of Justice in January 2005.
States must accept the federal form, and Pima County Registrar of Voters Chris Roads said that could create "an interesting scenario" on Election Day: A voter who registers with a federal form could be allowed to cast a ballot in a federal race, such as president or Congress, but not in a state or local race.
"It could create another layer of eligibility," he said, while noting that only about 1 percent of voters have been using the federal form to register.