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Arizona counties cancel voter registrations of non-citizens, most added to rolls by third parties

Of the 186 non-citizen voters in Pima County, 120 of them were registered through political parties and voter registration drives.

Published: February 23, 2024 11:00pm

More than 400 non-citizens have been removed from the voter rolls of two Arizona counties since 2015, with most of the removed Pima County registrants being registered to vote through third parties. 

Arizona’s most populous counties removed non-citizens from their voter rolls after some had already voted in elections. While many in Pima County were registered through political parties and voter registration drives, the more common means across the country are through states' Departments of Motor Vehicles. 

According to a report by the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) released on Tuesday, Pima County has removed 186 non-citizens from its voter rolls while Maricopa County has removed 222 since 2015, with the majority of those in Pima being registered to vote through third parties. 

Of the 186 non-citizen voters in Pima County, seven cast ballots across two federal and local elections. A total of 120 of the records, or approximately 65%, “came from ‘political parties and group drives,’” according to the information given to PILF by Pima County. The county data didn’t include which third-party drives registered the non-citizens. 

The year with the greatest amount of non-citizen voter records created in Pima County was 2022 at 132. The midterm election year of 2022 also had the highest number of non-citizen voters who cast ballots in the county, which was six in total during the general election. 

Also, 108 of the non-citizen registrants in Pima County did not choose a party affiliation. A total of 46 registered as Democrats, 28 Republicans, three Independents, and one Libertarian. 

The new report included information from PILF’s report last April on Maricopa County, which found that 2020 was the year with the most ballots cast by non-citizens in that county, a total of five in the general election. 

While both Pima and Maricopa counties released their non-citizen voter records to PILF, the law firm has two ongoing lawsuits against Alameda County, Calif., and the state of Pennsylvania trying to obtain their non-citizen voter records. 

Lauren Bis, PILF director of Communications and Engagement, told Just the News on Friday that most of the non-citizen voters self-reported casting ballots, since they must do so when going through the naturalization process to become a U.S. citizen. Because of this, Bis said that the actual number of non-citizens on the voter rolls is likely "much higher.” 

PILF President J. Christian Adams told the "Just the News, No Noise" TV show last year that the "vast majority" of non-citizens on voter rolls "are motor voter registrations" – referring to the 1993 National Voter Registration Act that made it easier for people applying for a driver's license to also register to vote. 

In a statement released on Tuesday, Adams said, “Federal law hampers states’ abilities to validate citizenship during the voter registration process. The federal government could update Motor Voter to allow states to require proof of citizenship and add citizenship to Motor Voter’s reasonable list maintenance requirements. Arizona is limited to building imperfect systems to address the problem of foreign nationals voting.” 

Registrants are asked if they are U.S. citizens on voter registration forms. However, states are not allowed to have any other criteria to prove that voters are U.S. citizens to vote in federal elections. 

Arizona is a state with the unusual situation of bifurcated elections, in which residents who provide proof of U.S. citizenship can vote in all elections while the others may vote only in federal elections, resulting in ballots cast by voters who haven’t proven their U.S. citizenship.  

State law requires residents registering to vote in the state to provide proof of U.S. citizenship.  

However, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that Arizona must accept U.S. voter registration forms because of federal requirements under the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, the state allows residents registering to vote who don't provide proof of citizenship to receive ballots for federal races only.  

When residents of Arizona register to vote or update their registration, an election system accesses their driver's license records to verify whether they have proof of citizenship. 

Those without documentation are ineligible to vote in state elections and registered as "federal-only" voters, according to the Associated Press.   

Previously, Just the News reported that the number of federal-only ballots cast in Arizona’s counties in the 2020 election was at least 5,697. Information regarding federal-only ballots recently provided by Cochise County to Just the News brings that number up to 5,798. 

As more illegal immigrants are crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, some states are letting non-citizens vote in local elections. California, Maryland, Vermont, and Washington, D.C., allow non-citizens to vote in local elections. 

New York City approved a law in 2021 that would permit non-citizens to vote in local elections, but a New York appeals court rejected it on Wednesday, ruling that it violated the state constitution. 

Also, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors appointed a Hong Kong immigrant who’s a non-citizen to the city's election commission last week. 

Meanwhile, seven states have specified that non-citizens aren’t allowed to vote in state and local elections: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, North Dakota, and Ohio. 

Bis said that in states where non-citizens can vote in local elections, the locality “would have to keep separate records and voter rolls like Arizona but for the opposite purpose because they’re allowed to vote.” 

She added that this system “seems way more complicated” and that it “could lead to mistakes by localities” where they “accidentally put [non-citizens] on the wrong voter rolls.” 

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