PHOENIX, AZ — Today, voting rights advocates celebrated a significant win for Arizonans that will make it easier for residents to exercise their fundamental right to vote. The victory was declared after the settlement of a lawsuit filed by the League of Women Voters of Arizona, Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, and Promise Arizona against the Arizona Secretary of State. The lawsuit alleged Arizona violated the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), a federal law designed to aid voter registration. The settlement agreement requires the State of Arizona to provide more effective voter registration services to individuals who update their driver’s license or state ID address in-person at a Motor Vehicle Department (MVD) office or online through the Service Arizona portal.
"With this agreement, all qualified voters in Arizona can be certain that their address for voter registration will be updated when they change their address through the Motor Vehicle Department, " said Robyn Prud’homme-Bauer, former co-president of the League of Women Voters of Arizona. "We applaud the Secretary of State and the Arizona Department of Transportation for helping Arizona close this gap."
"This is another victory for Arizonan's voting rights, particularly for the most vulnerable in our communities," said Petra Falcon, executive director of Promise Arizona. "For too long, residents were not given appropriate notification that simple transactions would terminate their voting privileges. This not only created hardship for our community members, but it dismissed the hard work of community groups working hard to register Arizona voters."
In 2018, voting rights groups filed suit against former Secretary of State Michele Reagan alleging that the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) was failing to provide Arizona citizens with voter registration services required by the NVRA during change-of-address transactions. Voters who moved did not have their voter registration addresses updated as required by the NVRA. As a result, voters were not placed on the voter rolls at the precinct corresponding to their current home address and may have had their mail ballots sent to the wrong address. At a hearing held in September 2018, Secretary Reagan’s own staff testified that as of 2018, as many as 384,000 Arizonans were likely registered to vote at a wrong address as a result of this violation. The settlement agreement, which was reached with current Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and ADOT, will help ensure that such mistakes do not happen in the future. Today’s agreement concludes this legal dispute between the parties.
"Part of the NVRA’s mandate is that states have to keep their voter rolls up to date, and ADOT has a critical role to play in making sure that happens," said Stuart Naifeh, senior counsel at Demos and one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs in the case. "We are gratified that the state has agreed to take steps to strengthen this key piece of its election infrastructure."
"Voter rights across the state were jeopardized due to significant voting rights violations and would have continued if local organizations did not raise the alarm," said Hector Sanchez Barba, executive director for Mi Familia Vota. "While we are pleased that the Secretary of State and ADOT will comply with an array of actions that will encourage civic participation, we will remain vigilant to ensure that our rights are protected and nothing of this sort happens again."
Under the agreement, the Secretary of State and ADOT will be required to implement various measures to improve and streamline voter registration services during change-of-address transactions. For the first time, voter registration services will be incorporated directly into the process for reporting a change of address online through Service Arizona at servicearizona.com. The settlement will also streamline the process of voter registration information collected during in-person transactions at MVD offices. To ensure the settlement agreement’s effectiveness, Secretary Hobbs and ADOT will both designate a staff person to assist with implementation and oversight.
"Improving and expanding voter registration services Arizona citizens receive when they interact with ADOT is critical in maintaining the accuracy of state voting rolls, reducing confusion at the polls, and ensuring every vote counts," said Sarah Brannon, managing attorney with the ACLU Voting Rights Project.
"This settlement ensures that the important provisions of the NVRA are not given mere lip-service," said Ezra Rosenberg, co-director of the Voting Rights Project of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. "Arizona citizens must be given the avenues to register to vote that Congress intended."
"This settlement embodies significant process improvements in Arizona that both facilitate and maximize voter participation in the election process," said Lawrence Scarborough, Partner, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner. "BCLP is proud to have been a part of this collaborative effort and positive outcome."
The plaintiffs are represented in the case by Demos, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arizona, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the law firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP.
The settlement agreement can be found here: https://www.demos.org/sites/default/files/2020-01/Ex%20A%20-%20flnal%20settlement%20filed%20with%20the%20Court.pdf