- Associated Press - Monday, September 8, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - Fears that thousands of voters would be denied the right to vote for state officials this year were proven wrong in the state’s first use of a two-tier voting system.

Just 21 voters statewide who registered using a federal form for Arizona elections were forced to only vote for federal candidates in the Aug. 26 primary, Secretary of State Ken Bennett said Monday.

Bennett created the system last year after the U.S. Supreme Court said Arizona can’t require additional identification from voters using the federal “motor-voter” form. Attorney General Tom Horne said that conflicted with state law requiring proof of citizenship.

So Arizona let people who didn’t provide ID vote just for federal races, meaning they couldn’t vote for statewide officers such as the governor or state legislators. Instead, those who registered using only the federal form were given ballots with only U.S. House of Representatives races on them.

Critics say the system creates unnecessary barriers to voting and that creating a two-tiered voting system is expensive, burdensome for voters and unnecessary, despite the low number of people affected.

“I don’t necessarily think that means it was greatly exaggerated,” said Alessandra Soler, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona. “I think the bigger picture is the dual system was never needed in the first place. So the state is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for this bifurcated system that was burdensome and costly.”

Arizona’s 15 counties were forced to print special ballots for voters who might show up at the polls having not responded to outreach efforts to provide proof of citizenship. Maricopa County alone is spending about $250,000 on special ballots for this year’s primary and general elections.

Statewide, the number is likely a few hundred thousand dollars, Bennett said.

Of the 21 voters who used the special ballot, eight were in Maricopa County, seven in Pima, five in Yavapai and one in Yuma.

Kansas also created a two-tiered system following the Supreme Court decision, and just one voter there used the special ballots in that state’s Aug. 5 primary.

Kansas and Arizona have sued to force the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to modify its national registration form to require their residents to provide citizenship documentation. A federal judge in Kansas sided with the states, but the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked his order until it could decide the case. Oral arguments were heard last month, and a decision is pending.


Follow Bob Christie on Twitter at https://twitter.com/APChristie.

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