RNC Brings Trump’s Non-Citizen Voting Fixation To Arizona Courts

Michael Whatley speaks at the Republican National Committee (RNC) Spring meeting on March 8, 2024, in Houston, Texas. The RNC elected Whatley as chairman and Lara Trump co-chair of the committee, tightening the forme... Michael Whatley speaks at the Republican National Committee (RNC) Spring meeting on March 8, 2024, in Houston, Texas. The RNC elected Whatley as chairman and Lara Trump co-chair of the committee, tightening the former president's grip over the party ahead of the November election. (Photo by Cécile Clocheret / AFP) (Photo by CECILE CLOCHERET/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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The Republican National Committee is bringing Donald Trump’s Non-Citizen voting myth—a baseless narrative and an increasingly rabid area of fixation for Republicans headed into 2024—to the Arizona courts.

Last week, the RNC and Arizona Republican legislators filed a notice of appeal to a case challenging two voter suppression laws. The appeal however, is far more about messaging than substance. It’s merely a way to keep the lie — that non-citizens vote en masse in federal elections — alive and well ahead of 2024. 

“The Republican Party seems to believe that it’s in their interest to keep controversies about immigration in the news, manufactured or real,” Justin Levitt, a professor of law at Loyola Law School, told TPM. “There’s a real nativist push to characterize immigrants as scary. And the appeal here seems to be very much in that flavor.”

The case centers around two 2022 Arizona proof of citizenship laws, which voting rights activists argued in a 2022 complaint, severely burdens the right to vote and has the potential to disenfranchise Arizona voters by, in part, requiring voters who register to vote using federal forms to provide proof of citizenship documentation or residency documentation to vote in a presidential election or vote by mail. A federal judge, however, blocked a portion of the provision in September 2023.

The 2022 legal challenge to H.B. 2492 was consolidated with another challenge to another state voting law, H.B. 2243, which among other things, required county recorders to cancel voter registrations when they have “reason to believe” a voter is not a citizen. It’s worth noting that there have been eight different groups of plaintiffs, primarily focused on the threats they present to voting rights, that filed complaints against these two laws collectively, that were then consolidated. 

In response to the RNC’s appeal, a spokesperson for Mi Familia Vota, one of the groups that challenged the voter laws, said in a statement via email to TPM: “It should be no surprise to anyone paying attention that the Republican National Committee would appeal the case challenging Arizona’s proof of citizenship law. MAGA Republicans are anti-democracy and have made a concerted effort to make it as hard as possible for Latinos to vote not just in Arizona but across the country.”

In September 2022, as reported by Democracy Docket, a federal district court, while keeping certain provisions in place, temporarily blocked the implementation of the voter registration cancellation law. And then in 2023, the court struck down proof of citizenship provisions in H.B. 2492, including a provision that required registrants to list their birthplaces, which, as Mark Kokanovich, former federal prosecutor and attorney at Ballard Spahr noted to TPM, is not germane to whether or not a voter is a citizen as people can be naturalized citizens and be born outside the U.S.

“The effort to scare people who aren’t born in this country away from voting, even though they’re citizens and allowed to vote, is, I think, one of the concerns of the plaintiffs in the case,” he said. 

Brent Ferguson, senior legal counsel at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, similarly said that the RNC making a big show of their appeal in Arizona can be understood as a way to perpetuate this false myth and intimidate potential legal voters. 

“Cases like this certainly are one attempt to push that [non-citizens voting] narrative, even when the trial court has pretty clearly found that most of the laws here are meritless and unneeded,” Brent Ferguson, senior legal counsel at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, noted. 

These types of laws focused on proof of citizenship, which Arizona Republicans have attempted to pass since 2004, are being pushed forward against the backdrop of no evidence to suggest that non-citizens vote in elections in Arizona or otherwise.

“​​In Arizona and elsewhere, there is a big problem with election misinformation and disinformation intimidation at drop boxes and things like that,” he added. “And this just shows that 2492 and 2243 are focusing on an essentially non-existent problem.”

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