Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Communities in Arizona Celebrate Judicial Decision To Strike Down Key Provisions in State Voting Laws Preventing Widespread Voter Disenfranchisement

AZ AANHPI for Equity and Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC Say There’s Still More Work Needed to Protect Naturalized Voters and Voters of Color
For Immediate Release
Michelle Boykins (202) 296-2300, ext. 0144

Phoenix, AZ — The federal district court in Phoenix handed down a decision last night that will allow the Arizona Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander for Equity (“AZ AANHPI for Equity”) — represented by Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian American Justice Center (Advancing Justice – AAJC), Latham & Watkins, and Spencer Fane —to better help protect and advance the rights of eligible AANHPI voters. These voters, over 60% of whom are naturalized in Arizona, won’t be forced to disclose their place of birth or be required to prove their citizenship multiple times just because they are accused of not being American. 

Although the decision in Mi Familia Vota v. Fontes did not go as far as it should in protecting Arizona voters, it struck several key provisions of H.B. 2492 and H.B. 2243 (“Challenged Voting Laws”) providing  major wins in protecting eligible, naturalized voters in communities of color. As a result of this litigation, Arizona cannot require birthplace information be provided, reject voter registrants for failing to meet unnecessary technical requirements while registering to vote, exclude certain voters from Presidential elections and mail-in ballots, conduct systematic removal of voters based on database searches within 90 days of a federal election, and subject naturalized voters to additional burdens based on racist “reasons to believe” that they are not citizens.

“Asian Americans are the fastest growing population in America, and in states like Arizona, our communities can be the difference in close elections,” said Niyati Shah, Director of Litigation at Advancing Justice – AAJC “Arizona has more than 60 percent of its AANHPI population who are naturalized and should no longer face questions of eligibility related to their birthplace or citizenship status because of this judicial ruling. We know the AZ AANHPI for Equity will continue to monitor the impact of the remaining provisions of the Challenged Voting Laws ahead of upcoming elections and Advancing Justice – AAJC will be here in full support of their work.” 

Local groups are frustrated that the court did not go far enough in its ruling because it did not clearly see the discrimination and undue burden placed on naturalized voters from the AANHPI and Latino communities who are often unable to procure documentary proof of citizenship (DPOC) within 35 days while overcoming language, time, and cost barriers.

“We are pleased that one of the provisions struck down denies county recorders the opportunity to trump up a reason to challenge the citizenship status of registered voters to a match with federal databases,” said May Tiwamangkala, Advocacy Director at AZ AANHPI for Equity. “But we know that government databases are often outdated, and as such naturalized voters will particularly be misidentified as being ineligible. We will continue to help register and educate our AANHPI community here in Arizona and help them obtain and respond to government request for proof of citizenship.”

AZ AANHPI for Equity has been represented in Mi Familia Vota v. Fontes by Niyati Shah and Terry Ao Minnis of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian American Justice Center (Advancing Justice – AAJC), Sadik Huseny and Amit Makker of Latham & Watkins LLP, and Andrew M. Federhar of Spencer Fane.