Arizona may have violated the voting rights of hundreds of thousands of people. Will the state fix problems by Election Day?

Petra Falcon, executive director of Promise Arizona, speaks to people gathered for a rally outside the 9th Circuit federal court in Pasadena, California on July 16, 2015
/Photo credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

By Dianna M. Náñez | Arizona Republic 

In 1993, Congress passed a sweeping law to make it easier for Americans to vote and maintain their registration, but it took more than two decades and a 2018 lawsuit to force Arizona to agree to fully comply.

A January settlement among the Arizona secretary of state and the League of Women Voters of Arizona, Mi Familia Vota and Promise Arizona has brought the state closer to full compliance and set a Jan. 31 target date for technological updates.

But ensuring the technology works could delay the full fix until after the March presidential preference election.

The agreement is enforceable through Dec. 31. 2023, essentially when Secretary of State Katie Hobbs’ term ends, unless there are delays to system upgrades, which would extend the agreement accordingly.

Petra Falcon, executive director of Promise Arizona, said she’s optimistic the settlement will force timely changes to ensure Arizona protects citizens’ voting rights. But given Arizona’s past troubles, she said her positive outlook is largely based on plaintiffs’ abilityto seek court enforcement if fixes are “unduly delayed.”

“To their credit, they accepted an agreement,” she said of state officials. “But we shouldn’t have to be bird-dogging them all the time. It shouldn’t have taken us to go to court to say you’re violating our rights.”

The lawsuit revealed that since 2016 the registrations of nearly 390,000 Arizonans were not automatically updated when those voters changed the address on their driver’s licenses, as required by federal law.


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