Election ‘reform’ bills stalled in the Arizona legislature

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Election "reform" bills have stalled in the Arizona legislature. SB1003 and SB1261, sponsored by Sen. Michele
Reagan, have stalled in the House at her request in an effort to give
Latino groups and Democrats a say in the measures and pitch amendments.The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reports
Despite changes to election reform bills, Democrats, Hispanics still opposed:

The bipartisan discussions have resulted in agreements for several changes in the bills.

But some Democrats say the efforts aren’t enough and are still urging
Reagan to hold the bills until next year and use the interim as a
chance to meet with all stakeholders — county recorders, lawmakers and
voters — before drafting new legislation to make Arizona’s voting
systems more efficient and accurate.

“I do appreciate the sponsor of the bill at least trying right now to
bring everyone together, but it makes it a little more difficult once a
bill is prepared to come to an agreement,” said Senate Minority Leader
Leah Landrum Taylor, D-Phoenix.

Reagan said House Speaker Andy Tobin has withheld the bills from
votes in the House Committee of the Whole at her urging.  The Scottsdale
Republican used the extra time to meet with the Arizona Association of
Counties, the Secretary of State’s Office and Democratic lawmakers to
address concerns with the bills.

Though Democrats convinced Reagan to make a few changes to the bills
in a stakeholders meeting on April 8, Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix,
called Reagan’s efforts a “waste of time” — without significant changes
to both bills, his vote on the bill won’t change from a no to a yes.

Gallardo and Latino groups have blasted the measures as an attempt to
discourage minority voter turnout, as grassroots attempts to drive
Latinos to the polls in recent years have been a boon for Democrats
seeking more votes for statewide office.

None of the amendments Reagan agreed to during her meeting changes the way Gallardo and others feel about the bills, he said.

“At the end of the day, it’s 45 minutes of my life that I’m never
getting back. Nothing was accomplished at this meeting,” Gallardo said.
“If you’re not going to be sincere in terms of wanting to find a middle
ground, there’s no point in meeting.”

A letter sent to Reagan on April 4 by CASE (Central Arizonans for a
Sustainable Economy), expressed the same sentiment.  There’s simply too
much wrong with Reagan’s legislation to try and amend it this session,
according to Daria Ovide, communications director for CASE.

And, Brendan Walsh, CASE executive director, wrote: “We believe that
putting these bills aside and starting again — together — is the only
way to ensure that every eligible Arizonan can vote efficiently and
effectively.”

Reagan said she made clear that she refused
to budge on some concerns Democrats have with her bills.  Chief among
them are efforts to cut down on provisional ballots by removing voters
from the permanent early voting list, better known as PEVL.

* * *

The bill as written applies the rule
retroactively to the 2010 election cycle, but Reagan said she agreed to
an amendment that would start tracking a voter’s lack of participation
with PEVL to the 2012 election.

Language is also being added to provide funding for all 15 county recorders to boost voter education efforts, Reagan said.


“I still don’t think that many Democrats
will support it,” Reagan said. Democrats asked her to amend the measure
to have a postcard sent out requiring voters to reply to be taken off
PEVL. But election officials already do that and not enough voters reply
to be removed, she said. “It’s not negotiable for me. It doesn’t work
and we already do it,” Reagan said.

She also agreed to amend SB1003 to reduce the penalty from a Class 6
felony to a Class 1 misdemeanor for illegally taking another voter’s
ballot to a polling place.

The meeting was not intended to sway
Democrats to vote in favor of her bills, Reagan said, only to allow a
dialogue on her legislation and suggestions for improvement from her
colleagues across the aisle.

* * *

Reagan said she’s secured enough votes in
the House to approve both bills. Any amendments made in the House would
require a final vote in the Senate, a calculated risk Reagan said she
was willing to take in order to reach out to everyone who wanted to
provide input on the legislation.

Reagan said a second vote in the Senate is less certain, but Gallardo
said the bills will likely clear both chambers.  Both bills cleared the
Senate by a 16-12 party-line vote in February.

Rather than try and block the bills in the Legislature, Gallardo said
he’s shifting his efforts to block the measures in court. The senator
has sent information about both bills to the U.S. Department of Justice,
which must approve changes to Arizona’s election law in accordance with
the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

“I’m not going to allow these bills to be implemented without some kind of legal challenge,” Gallardo said.

As I detailed in an earlier post, the Arizona legislature fails to consider real solutions to the problems with our elections.

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