Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery also took issue with Gaynor’s description of the consent decree. Though the county attorney’s office didn’t sign off on the agreement, Montgomery said his office advised Fontes in the matter. “Allowing someone access to the state form – I don’t think objectively it really increases that likelihood,” Montgomery said of Gaynor’s claim that the agreement will make it easier for non-citizens to vote: “I understand the statement, but I don’t see the conclusion.”
He noted that, under the agreement, people without proof of citizenship can now register to vote using state forms, but that doing so only allows people to vote in federal elections, which they were already permitted to do. The secretary of state’s office checks names against the MVD’s database, and when those records show that someone isn’t eligible to vote in state elections, the office informs the relevant county recorder’s office, which informs the voter. Montgomery said the consent decree probably makes it harder for non-citizens to vote than under the previous system, while it doesn’t change the standard for federal-only voting at all. “I get the general argument. It’s a political argument. I don’t think it’s something that the consent decree itself specifically increases the likelihood of that,” Montgomery said.
The only issues Montgomery said he’s seen with non-citizens registering to vote are mostly “infrequent instances” where someone who declined jury duty on the grounds that they aren’t citizens were found to have registered to vote, and in those cases, the people were often under the mistaken impression that their eligibility to work in the US made them eligible to vote. Montgomery seemed unconvinced by Gaynor’s claims that he spoke with election attorneys who told him that Arizona could have won the lawsuit if it had continued fighting. “I would say that Maricopa County does not fare well in federal US District Court when it comes to issues involving citizenship cases. Arizona doesn’t seem to be doing much better, either,” he said. “There are probably as many ways to try a case as there are lawyers in a room. But I think it’s fair to say that Arizona’s experience in litigating issues involving questions of citizenship in the federal courts gives us a pretty clear path for where some of these cases are likely to go.”