Groups seek clarity on felons' voting rights in Arizona

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

The Arizona Secretary of State's Office has begun revising its website and may also change its forms to make clear that first-time felons automatically get their voting rights restored when they complete their sentences, including paying any fines and restitution.

The Campaign Legal Center found that the automatic process wasn't clear on forms, which misleadingly implied that first-time felons had to go through a process that by law only applies to people with more than one felony conviction, the Arizona Capitol Times reported Wednesday.

In a letter to Secretary of State Michele Reagan, the advocacy group noted the state's website also did not provide any information about automatic restoration for first-time felons.

"The inaccurate or misleading information on these forms assuredly leads many citizens of Arizona not to exercise their constitutionally protected right to vote," the group told Reagan.

The group is looking at other states' voter registration forms to ensure they display adequate information, said Danielle Lang, an attorney with the center.

Already it has found six states, including Arizona, that have issues with their forms.

Currently, the form in Arizona reads that people cannot register to vote in the state if they "have been convicted of a felony and have not yet had civil rights restored." It doesn't elaborate on the distinction between a first-time felon and a repeating offender.

Incomplete information can violate the National Voter Registration Act, which requires that forms accurately inform people of their voting rights.

"If you have the right to vote, you shouldn't have to consult a lawyer to find out about it," Lang said.

The Secretary of State's office has said it would look into making changes to the voter registration forms, but has yet to make a decision.

Given that there are so many forms out in the community that have already been paid for, Reagan's spokesman Matt Roberts said it's unlikely Reagan will want to throw all of those out.

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