Political parties have been doing ballot collection and drop off for voters for years. It only became an issue after Latino voting rights organizations were instrumental in the recall of disgraced former Senate president and anti-immigrant nativist Russell Pearce. This is political payback.
Voter assistance (“ballot harvesting” to right-wing conspiracy theorists) was made a felony crime in the 2013 omnibus election law bill co-authored by Arizona’s queen of voter suppression, then Senator Michele Reagan, who is now unfortunately Secretary of State, and Senator Michelle Ugenti.
There was a citizen uprising against the GOP Voter Suppression Act, and a citizens referendum to reject the GOP Voter Suppression Act was qualified for the 2014 ballot. Our lawless Tea-Publican legislature then repealed the GOP Voter Suppression Act so that the citizens referendum would not appear on the 2014 ballot and cost Tea-Publicans some seats.
Since then our lawless Tea-Publican legislature has been pursuing provisions in the GOP Voter Suppression Act piecemeal to make a citizens referendum more difficult and costly to do.
Criminalizing voter assistance (aka “ballot harvesting”) was a top Tea-Publican legislative goal this year and was fast-tracked through the legislature. On Wednesday, Governor Ducey signed the bill into law. (The clock is now ticking for a citizens referendum).
Howard Fischer reports, New Arizona law makes collection of ballots a felony:
HB 2023 (.pdf), which takes effect later this year, will allow judges to impose a presumptive one-year prison term and potential $150,000 fine for the current practice by civic and political groups of going out to see if people remembered to return the early ballots they had requested by mail.
Ducey’s signature came just hours after the measure gained final Senate approval on a party-line vote. And it came moments after state Republican Party chairman issued a statement saying the change “restores the public’s respect for a process that had potentially dangerous implications and provided too much opportunity for fraud and tampering with an election.’’
The governor’s own prepared comment echoed that sentiment.
“This bill ensures a secure chain of custody between the voter and the ballot box,’’ Ducey said. “We join 18 other states in this common-sense approach to maintaining the integrity of our elections.’’
Wait, doesn’t this mean that 31 other states, a clear majority, do not think this is a common-sense approach? I’m going to take a wild guess and say that all 19 of the states that think otherwise have Tea-Publican legislatures and governors.
And “a secure chain of custody between the voter and the ballot box” Governor? Seriously? Most voters in Arizona vote early by mail, so let’s review: a ballot is mailed to your home address mail box. That means bulk mail was sent by your county elections director, processed through a U.S. mail center, and delivered by a postal worker to your home address. The ballot is then picked up by anyone who lives at that address, and hell why not, possibly even a mail thief. The ballot is filled out and returned by mail, again picked up by a postal worker and processed through a U.S. mail center, before being delivered to your county elections director. The ballots are again handled by any number of election workers for verification and running a batch to verify counts. Any number of people have access to that early ballot, so please don’t blow smoke up my skirt about “a secure chain of custody between the voter and the ballot box.” That is just nonsense.
Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, said there has never been a documented case of anyone actually picking up someone else’s ballot and then failing to deliver it. [This is true.]
“The problem we’re solving is that one party is better at collecting ballots than the other one,’’ he said.
“The other one tried and they failed,’’ Farley continued. “And, therefore, it’s time to change the rules.’’
The legislation is based on claims of fraud — or at least potential fraud. [It could happen!]
“A lot of shenanigans happen down in my neck of the woods,’’ said Sen. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, referring to the area south of his home city.
Shooter said he got another email just Wednesday, ahead of the vote on this bill, from someone claiming to have evidence and witnesses of fraud.
“I’ve been told the way they do it is they collect the ballots early, they put them in a microwave with a bowl of water, steam them open, take the ballots,’’ he explained.
“If they like the way it’s voted they put them back in,’’ Shooter continued. “If they don’t like the way it’s voted, the lose that ballot.’’
Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Phoenix, questioned Shooter about what happened.
“We did in fact report it to law enforcement,’’ Shooter responded.
“They reported it to the secretary of state’s office,’’ he continued, resulting in an inquiry more than a month later. “Nothing really happened other than the fact that they did a press release, I think, or something to that effect.’’
Soooo, the evidence and witnesses you assert supported your claim did not result in any charges being filed because, I’ll take a wild guess here, there was no credible evidence to support your claim and the witnesses also were not credible. In other words, no crime was committed other than in your fertile imagination.
That lack of any actual evidence also came up when the measure was first debated in the House. But here, too, it was brushed aside, with Rep. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler (this tool again) saying it is irrelevant whether this is fraud or not.
“What is indisputable is that many people believe it’s happening,’’ he said in voting for the measure. “And I think that matters.’’
Wow, what a douche-nozzle. A lot of people believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, etc. but that does not mean that they actually do exist.
Are we now going to pass laws to address every wild-ass conspiracy theory on wingnut web sites like World Net Daily and Info Wars?
Republicans showed no interest in a proposal by Quezada to deal with at least part of the reason for ballot harvesting: the current requirement that ballots be received by election officials no later than 7 p.m. on Election Day.
Quezada said many people agree to give their ballots to others when they suddenly realize it’s too late to put them in the mail. He proposed changing the system to allow any ballot to be counted as long as it is postmarked by Election Day.
It was rejected.
The GOP majority also rebuffed a bid by Sen. Andrew Sherwood, D-Tempe, to reduce the penalty to a misdemeanor.
There are some exceptions to the penalties in HB 2023. They would not apply to family members, those living in the same household or certain caregivers who provide assistance to voters in various institutions.
Does this mean that political parties are now no longer able to provide voter assistance as well?
The Arizona Republic‘s E.J Montini comments, Ducey makes good citizenship a felony:
Gov. Doug Ducey said the passage of House Bill 2023, which he signed Wednesday, was about “maintaining the integrity of our elections.”
The new law is simply turns good citizens into criminals.
The integrity of our elections was never threatened.
This bill was all about maintaining a Republican majority in the Legislature by way of voter suppression.
Once the law takes effect, it will make it a felony for most of us to carry another voter’s mail-in ballot to the polls. There has never been any proof of fraud, or evidence that any signed and sealed ballots had been tampered with or altered. They were simply delivered.
In previous elections, however, Democrats have proven themselves better at organizing ballot collections. They were done to assist elderly voters, the disabled, new voters and others. It’s boosts voter participation. That’s a good thing right?
Republicans aren’t very good collecting ballots. So instead of working hard to get better at it they simply outlawed the practice. The bill passed in the Senate on a party-line vote and was signed by Ducey.
Who voted for voter suppression in the House:
Who voted for voter suppression in the Senate: