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Maricopa County accepted over 4,000 federal-only race ballots in 2020 without US citizenship proof

A total of 14,298 residents were registered to only vote in the federal elections during the November 2020 general election.

Published: May 25, 2023 11:42pm

Updated: May 26, 2023 1:17am

Arizona's Maricopa County accepted 4,484 federal-only ballots for the November 2020 presidential election that didn't require the voters who cast them to provide proof of U.S. citizenship, according to documents provided by the county. 

The request for the information was made by Tristan Manos, a Maricopa County Republican Committee precinct committeeman. 

The county provided information on how many ballots with only federal races on them were counted in the 2020 presidential election and the number of voters who are registered to receive federal-only ballots. 

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

However, after the Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that Arizona must accept federal 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.

Federal voter registration forms require those filling them out only to sign a sworn declaration that they are U.S. citizens. 

According to the 2020 data provided by Maricopa County, 14,298 residents were registered to vote only in the federal elections during the November general election.

A total of 8,114 federal-only ballots were cast in that election.

From that number, 3,630 were Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act ballots for overseas voters. In total, there were 4,484 federal-only ballots the county accepted and counted in its canvass, but those voters didn't provide proof of U.S. citizenship. 

Maricopa also has a PowerPoint detailing how it is illegal for a non-U.S. citizen to vote, and county data shows that voter registrations for 222 foreign nationals have been canceled since 2015, with nine of them casting 12 ballots over four federal elections.

Arizona has also had issues with mailing federal-only ballots to voters. 

In October 2022, just before the November general election, then-Secretary of State Katie Hobbs mistakenly sent out as many as 6,000 federal-only ballots to voters who were U.S. citizens. 

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.  

At the time of the mishap, a spokeswoman for Hobbs' office said the driver's license query failed to properly verify the citizenship for some people, resulting in them being improperly registered as the federal-only voters. 

Also last year, Arizona enacted a law that requires counties to check federal-only voters for citizenship against multiple databases. The counties must reject any federal applications if they find the individual is not a U.S. citizen, and any official knowingly ignoring the requirement could receive a felony charge. 

The Justice Department sued Arizona over the law last July, claiming it is "a textbook violation of the National Voter Registration Act," according to Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the agency's Civil Rights Division.

The agency also claims the law violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

"For nearly three decades, the National Voter Registration Act has helped to move states in the right direction by eliminating unnecessary requirements that have historically made it harder for eligible voters to access the registration rolls," Clarke said. "Arizona has passed a law that turns the clock back on progress by imposing unlawful and unnecessary requirements that would block eligible voters from the registration rolls for certain federal elections."

The case is ongoing, with the Democratic National Committee also as a plaintiff.

The defendants in the case are the Republican National Committee, the Arizona GOP House speaker, the state GOP Senate president and the state attorney general and the secretary of state, who are both Democrats. 

Following the announcement of the DOJ's lawsuit last year, former acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf told the "Just the News, Not Noise" TV show, "We all know that to vote federally, in federal elections, obviously, you need to be a United States citizen. So you need to be able to verify that. This is not an extreme position, as though, I'm sure, the Department of Justice and others would have you believe. This is something that's fairly common, that should be done, particularly when we talk about federal elections." 

Maricopa County provided Just the News with the link to the 2020 official canvass embedded above and gave information found on the Arizona secretary of state's website regarding the federal-only ballots.

"A person is not required to submit proof of citizenship with the voter registration form, but failure to do so means the person will only be eligible to vote in federal elections (known as being a 'federal only' voter). A 'federal only' voter will become eligible to vote a 'full ballot' in all federal, state, county and local elections if he or she later provides valid proof of citizenship to the appropriate County Recorder's office."

Maricopa County added, "The federal form requires a person to swear they are a citizen, but there is no proof requirement. Those who register using the form and do not respond to election officials’ request for citizenship proof are only allowed to vote in federal elections."

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