PHOENIX—Voting rights groups have reached an agreement with the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES), and the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), to remedy federal voting rights violations that were uncovered more than nine months ago.
In an effort to provide eligible Arizonans the opportunity to register to vote, DES and AHCCCS have agreed to send voter registration forms in English and Spanish to approximately 300,000 people who had contact with the agencies between August 1, 2017 and July 31, 2018. By the end of August, the agencies will send voter registration forms and an explanation letter to anyone who applied for, recertified, or renewed their public assistance or changed their address during that time. The agencies should have offered clients the opportunity to register to vote during these transactions but in many cases did not provide the chance to do so.
The settlement is a strong commitment on behalf of DES, AHCCCS, and ADOT to comply with federal voting rights law. Michele Reagan, the Arizona Secretary of State, has not shown the same commitment. Voting rights groups filed a lawsuit against Secretary Reagan for failing to keep Arizona’s voter rolls up to date and hindering Arizonans’ right to vote.
“We are gratified that these Arizona agencies have been willing to work constructively with us to ensure that Arizonans have a simple and effective opportunity to register to vote when they come into a government office or go onto a government website,” said Stuart Naifeh, senior counsel and Demos. “If Secretary of State Michele Reagan had been able put politics aside and had, like these agencies, worked pragmatically to protect Arizona voters before this fall’s mid-term election, she would not be facing litigation now,” Naifeh added.
“While the Arizona Secretary of State makes excuses as to why she can’t send a similar letter to at least 500,000 Arizonans who may have been denied their voting rights, these agencies are taking an active step to protect our fundamental right to vote,” said Petra Falcon, executive director of Promise Arizona. “The right to vote is one of the most powerful tools the Latino community has.”
DES and AHCCCS have also agreed to begin distributing voter registration applications to each client who comes to an agency office and applies, recertifies, or renews their public assistance or changes their address, unless the client declines to register to vote in writing. The agencies have agreed to train staff about the distribution of voter registration forms by the end of August.
In addition, ADOT has agreed to translate its Driver’s License/Identification Card Application, which includes the option to register as a voter, into Spanish. Spanish forms will be available in all Motor Vehicle Division offices, including all authorized third party offices, in Maricopa, Pima, Santa Cruz, and Yuma counties. Federal law requires voter registration information distributed in these four Arizona counties to be available in Spanish.
In November 2017, the ACLU, the ACLU of Arizona, Demos, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law sent a letter on behalf of Mi Familia Vota, Promise Arizona, and the League of Women Voters of Arizona to Secretary Reagan notifying her of these agencies’ noncompliance with critical voting rights protections. Violations of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) and the Voting Rights Act (VRA) by ADOT, AHCCCS, and DES exclude eligible voters and harm voter participation.
“The effort that DES, AHCCCS, and ADOT are making is commendable,” said Robyn Prud’homme-Bauer, co-president of the League of Women Voters in Arizona. “It is a step toward reversing the effects of their non-compliance with federal voting rights laws. Their actions will undoubtedly help increase the number of registered voters and allow Arizonans to make their voices heard.”
“We are pleased, for our community’s sake, that these agencies have agreed to work with us and remedy the legal violations that hinder people’s right to vote,” said Ben Monterroso, executive director of Mi Familia Vota. “We will monitor their efforts and ensure that they correct all of their errors.
The agreement between voting rights groups and AHCCCS, DES, and ADOT is not a final settlement. The steps that these agencies have agreed to take are intended to help ensure all eligible voters can participate in the November election.