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Sen. Kyrsten Sinema leaves a Democratic luncheon

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) leaves the Senate Democrats' luncheon in the U.S. Capitol on October 26, 2021. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images)

Sinema Under Fire for 'Directly Enabling' New GOP Voter Purge Law in Arizona

"The GOP continues to suppress voting rights across the country," said one advocacy group. "Do you see what's happening in your state, Senator Sinema?"

Jake Johnson

Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema faced fresh backlash from civil rights groups on Wednesday after the Republican governor of her home state of Arizona signed into law a bill that could purge hundreds of thousands of voters from the rolls.

"Sinema and Manchin are directly enabling the erosion of civil rights and liberties by right-wing governors."

Advocacy organizations argued the state-level GOP measure was able to advance because Sinema and fellow right-wing Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) joined with Republicans earlier this year to tank a proposed change to the Senate filibuster, an archaic rule standing in the way of federal voting rights legislation that would prohibit voter purges and other suppression tactics.

"History will judge Governor [Doug] Ducey and his enablers, who through their actions—or in Senator Kyrsten Sinema's case, inaction—allowed for today's attack on our freedom to vote," Christina Harvey, executive director of Stand Up America, said in a statement Wednesday.

Harvey warned that the new Arizona law, known as H.B. 2492, "threatens to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Arizona voters and silence the voices of older, minority, and low-income voters in particular."

"Ducey's animosity toward our fundamental rights comes as no surprise," added Harvey, "but this attack on voting rights was completely avoidable."

One of more than 250 voter suppression bills that Republican legislatures across the U.S. are pursuing, H.B. 2492 requires state residents—including those already registered to vote—to provide documentary proof of citizenship remain eligible to cast a ballot in state and federal elections in Arizona.

Experts and advocacy groups have warned that such a mandate could cause widespread confusion and push hundreds of thousands of eligible voters off the rolls.

"It's being done based on lies and conspiracy theories that have been completely debunked."

"This bill will mean that some people who are clearly allowed to vote and are authorized to vote will not be able to exercise their right to vote," Alex Gulotta, Arizona state director at All Voting Is Local, told NBC News on Wednesday.

"And it's being done based on lies and conspiracy theories that have been completely debunked," Gulotta added, referring to former President Donald Trump's baseless claims of widespread voter fraud.

Democracy Docket explained that prior to the passage of H.B. 2492, Arizona voters who registered using state forms were required to provide proof of citizenship, but voters who registered using federal forms under the National Voter Registration Act did not, and were allowed to vote in federal elections held in the state.

"H.B. 2492 requires election officials to verify the citizenship of these 'federal only' voters," Democracy Docket noted. "If officials are unable to verify citizenship, the voter will not be allowed to register or vote until they provide documentary proof."

The new law is expected to face legal challenges, particularly given that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a similar proof of citizenship requirement in Arizona in 2013.

Even Jennifer Holder, the attorney for Arizona's Republican-controlled House Rules Committee, said during a recent hearing the new measure would likely run afoul of federal law.

"As we see it," Holder told lawmakers, "the Supreme Court case pretty much addressed this scenario."

As NPR reported, one estimate indicates the law could affect around 192,000 voters, "the number of Arizonans who were issued a state driver's license prior to 1996—when the state updated its credentialing process to ensure a driver's lawful presence in the United States—and have not altered their license since."

H.B. 2492 was one of several deeply regressive Republican-authored bills that Ducey signed into law on Wednesday. Among the others were a bill banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy and legislation restricting gender-affirming care for transgender youth.

"The legislators who supported these bills know that their transphobic, anti-choice agenda is misaligned with the will of their constituents," Darrell Hill, policy director for the ACLU of Arizona, said in a statement Wednesday. "Simultaneously passing voting restrictions is an easy solution to carry on without answering to the people they are supposed to represent."

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) argued in a scathing social media post on Wednesday that "the unconstitutional and overreaching bills signed by Gov. Ducey today were enabled by the U.S. Senate and their inability to abolish the filibuster preventing passage of federal laws for our LGBTQ members, enshrine our voting rights, and protect women's reproductive health."

"Senators Sinema and Manchin are directly enabling the erosion of civil rights and liberties by right-wing governors and legislatures across the country," Grijalva added.

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