The Democratic National Committee and the Arizona Democratic Party are gearing up to sue Arizona officials to stop a controversial new law that allows a third party designated by the Republican-controlled legislature to scour the state’s voter registration database in search of ineligible voters.
Party officials say the provision violates both federal voting law and Arizonans’ constitutional rights, in a demand letter being sent Wednesday to Arizona officials and shared first with CNN.
The letter is the first step in filing a lawsuit under the National Voter Registration Act. And Wednesday’s move marks the first time that the national Democratic Party has taken legal action to counter the wave of restrictive voting laws passed by Republican-controlled state legislatures this year.
The DNC has committed $25 million in an effort to register and educate voters and to mount legal challenges to the new laws ahead of the 2022 midterms.
“The Democratic Party is putting Republicans on notice: if you infringe on the right to vote, we will step up and fight back to protect voters and their rights,” DNC Chairman Jaime Harrison said in a statement.
At issue in Arizona: A provision tucked into a budget bill earlier this year that requires the secretary of state to allow a “person or entity” designated by the state legislature to review the state’s voter rolls. If the review determines that ineligible voters are in the database, it mandates their removal.
DNC officials argue the law violates voters’ due process rights because it does not require the state to notify voters that they have been kicked off the rolls. And because Arizona does not offer same-day voter registration, voters who show up at the polls on Election Day and discover that their names have been purged, have no recourse.
Harrison cast the Arizona provision as part of a pattern of partisan meddling in the administration of elections — following former President Donald Trump’s repeated and false claims that voter fraud led to his loss to President Joe Biden in Arizona and other key battlegrounds.
“Rather than leaving elections to election professionals, Arizona’s Republican legislature has granted itself the power to appoint a private party to unilaterally disqualify voters without even giving them notice,” he said.
Laws passed this year in states such as Kansas, Georgia, Iowa and Arkansas weaken the authority of election officials. And in Arizona, the state’s Republican-led Senate has faced derision for hiring a firm with no experience in election auditing, Cyber Ninjas, to undertake an problem-plagued “audit” of ballots cast last year in Maricopa County. The effort has been largely funded by Trump allies.
Biden won the state by fewer than 11,000 votes last year.
Arizona Senate President Karen Fann, a Republican, has defended the Maricopa County review as a tool in determining whether state laws should be changed for future elections. Jack Sellers, the Republican chairman of the Maricopa County’s Board of Supervisors, has accused the state Senate of “running a grift disguised as an audit.”
Critics say nothing in Arizona’s new law would prohibit partisan actors from financing the newly required ballot reviews.
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