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Bennett backs congressional bill aimed at cross-state voter registration

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WASHINGTON – Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett testified Tuesday in support of a congressional bill aimed at keeping people from voting in multiple states, comparing it to a similar system pioneered by Arizona.

“The main goal of this legislation is to increase accuracy of voting record-keeping,” Bennett said of the Voter Registration Efficiency Act, which would ask people who move into a new state if they will use their new address “for voter registration purposes.”

He compared it to the Interstate Cross-Check system, started in Arizona in 2009 and now used by 22 states. That system is an “important part of how we keep up with people moving county to county and state to state” and turned up 45,000 registration matches between Arizona and other states in 2012 alone, Bennett said.

But League of Women Voters President Elisabeth MacNamara expressed concern that the bill could lead to the “erroneous removal of voters without adequate safeguards.”

She worried that the proposal could actually make the system less efficient and lead to voter confusion.

“A lot of voters don’t understand the election process,” MacNamara told the Committee on House Administration, which was considering the bill.

But the committee chairwoman said it is  important to protect the integrity of the vote.

“All eligible voters should have the opportunity to vote, but just one time,” said Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., who is also a sponsor of the measure.

The bill would amend the 1993 “Motor Voter” law, the National Voter Registration Act that lets people apply to vote when they apply for a driver’s license. The measure would require that driver’s license applications include the question, “Does the individual intend for the new state to serve as the individual’s residence for voter registration purposes?”

Supporters pointed to the large numbers of people who move across state lines as a reason for the change.

The Census Bureau said about 4 million people moved between states in 2011-2012. Almost 50,000 people moved from California to Arizona in 2011, the third-most-common move.

Bennett said voters are already confused by the system, with some believing that if they sign up for a driver’s license in their new state, they will be automatically signed up to vote there, too. That “is not necessarily the case,” he said.

Bennett said that since the Interstate Cross-Check system was started, around 300,000 duplicate voting records were discovered between the 22 states that are now part of the system.

Michigan Director of Elections Christopher Thomas doubted there would be confusion, noting that the question is pretty straightforward.

“If they say no (on the application), we will take no action,” Thomas testified.

Bennett said he believes the law “could help people” and he is optimistic that more states will join Interstate Cross-Check as a result of the proposal.

“It (the proposed law) will have a positive effect on voters,” Bennett said.