Arizona Senate approves three election reform bills

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Sen. Michele Reagan, R-Scottsdale, who was dreams of becoming the next Secretary of State, is using her newly renamed Senate Elections Committee (how convenient) to push through election reform measures of interest to her and the GOP, but not necessarily designed to address any of the problems that were apparent during the 2012 election. The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reports Election reform bills pass Senate:

Three election-reform bills cleared the Arizona Senate, sending Sen. Michele Reagan’s trio of bills to the House despite objections from Democrats that the bills would infringe on voter rights and undo years of get-out-the vote efforts by activist groups.

Reagan’s bills were approved by senators on 16-12 party line votes Monday afternoon, and would make sweeping changes to the elections process. SB1003 would allow only members of a family or household to turn in one another’s mail in ballots.

Political parties and voting rights organizations have for years lawfully provided the service of picking up early ballots to deliver to the polls. This is an attempt to make that practice illegal. There has been some hyperbolic rhetoric from legislators about how voting rights organizations are showing up with boxes full of ballots to drop off. I have never personally observed this, but even if true, so what? The County Recorder must verify the signature on the Early Ballot affidavit to process the ballot for counting. This attempt to make it sound as if ballot box stuffing is occuring is simply nonsense. If that were the case, there would be a record of prosecutions; there is not.

SB 1261 would purge the Permanent Early Voting List – a headache-inducing list for county recorders in the most recent election – of anyone who doesn’t use early the ballots to vote in two consecutive election cycles and also fails to re-opt into the program when prompted by the state.

I will concede that political parties have made an extraordinary effort to get people to sign up for the Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL) so that they can do ballot chase operations for early voters. Some of these voters are not clear on the concept of early voting, and would prefer to vote in person at the polls. This bill is supported by the County Recorders and Elections Directors who were made to look bad in the media with the slow vote-counting of the November election. Awww, poor babies.

Purging the PEVL list of individuals who fail to vote early and instead drop off their ballot is a misguided solution — the voter has a lawful right to do this. The voter should have to opt-out of PEVL, not be purged from the PEVL list and have to opt-in again. This bill is ass-backwards.

What is missing in Arizona is a Public Service Announcement (PSA) campaign by the Secretary of State and your local County Recorder's Office (or Elections Division) to educate voters on Early Ballots and mailing in their ballots in advance of election day. I cannot recall the last time i have seen such a PSA. This is not being addressed by the legislature.

SB1264 would invalidate signatures collected on petition drives from out-of-state circulators who aren’t registered with the Secretary of State. Paid out-of-state circulators would still be allowed to work on recall petitions, but they would have to make their residency clear to people they collect signatures from.

The intent of this bill is to discourage voters from signing petitions when they hear "Hi, I'm ____ from California, and I'd like to talk to you about signing this petition for  . . ." I'm not sure how much of a deterrent this really is. Most ballot measures on the Arizona ballot in the last decade or so have been from out-of-state conservative organizations, so maybe this will have an unintended benefit. I'm neutral on this bill.

[Update: The bill requires that signatures for initiative and referendum efforts come from at least five counties and that 40 percent of the signatures come from counties other than Maricopa and Pima — where 75% of the state's population lives. This gives rural counties in effect a "veto power" over initiatives and referendums that may enjoy the support of a majority of the state's more urban voters. This is an undue burden for no justifiable policy reason. I would oppose this bill until the formula is adjusted.]

While acknowledging Reagan’s attempts to address concerns that arose from the 2012 election cycle, Democrats voted against each bill, arguing that some of the measures would make it harder for some in the state to vote.

House Minority Leader Leah Landrum Taylor, D-Phoenix, said Arizona’s early voting programs have given the state’s minority population a greater voice. “But current legislation making its way through the legislature make it much harder to vote using an early ballot,” she said in a statement. “We agree that we must take steps to streamline how our votes are counted, but those steps cannot come at the expense of anyone’s ability to vote.”

Comments are closed.