Over the past few years, Arizona Republicans have pushed a number of voter suppression laws in the name of combating voter fraud by non-citizens. Despite insistences from Gov. Jan Brewer (R) and Attorney General Tom Horne (R) that thousands of non-citizens are trying to influence Arizona elections, a new analysis by the Arizona Republic finds that illegal voting by immigrants is close to nonexistent.
The Republic unearthed just 34 court cases since 2005 involving felony voter fraud charges, none of which resulted in any jail time or felony charges. Two illegal voters were undocumented immigrants, while twelve were legal residents. Many legal immigrants said in court they thought they were allowed to vote because they were permanent residents. In other words, .002 percent of the estimated 610,000 undocumented immigrants and legal non-citizens residing in Arizona were charged with voting illegally at some point over the past eight years.
Eighteen of the remaining fraudulent voters were convicted felons, several of whom said they were never told that state law revoked their voting rights after getting out of prison.
When confronted with this evidence, Attorney General Horne argued that many non-citizen voters go unprosecuted because county attorneys “have scarce resources and bigger fish to fry.” But the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office told the Republic there were just four cases of voter fraud over the past nine years that the office decided not to pursue.
Arizona, on the verge of becoming a majority non-white state, has become one of the most radical voter suppression laboratories in the nation. The Republican-dominated Legislature, citing the threat of voter fraud, passed a slew of election law changes to make early voting harder for anyone who missed the last two federal elections, criminalize voter registration drives that are especially effective in turning out Latino voters, and raise the number of signatures needed to put a citizen initiative or candidate on the ballot. Despite Republicans’ best efforts to keep Arizonans from weighing in, voters will be able to uphold or reject these laws on next year’s ballot.
Also in the name of preventing supposedly rampant non-citizen voting, the state plans to require proof of citizenship for state and local elections, endangering the voting rights of at least 1,400 mostly Latino and Native American voters who do not have access to the required documents.
The fear of illegal immigrant voters seems to have grown more urgent with the rise of the state’s non-white population. Arizona Republicans are currently trying to quash the state’s redistricting process after an independent panel factored in the Hispanic population’s rapid growth into the state’s new legislative district maps, making the political landscape too “competitive,” in Gov. Brewer’s words.
Nationally, non-citizen voting is exceedingly rare. In last year’s election, voter purges targeting mostly Latino-Americans and naturalized citizens in Florida and Colorado caught just one non-citizen voter, a Canadian who voted in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.