Last week I posted an Action Alert: Tea-Publicans again try to criminalize voting activists (Updated):
The vote on the Striker to SB 1340 FAILED on a 3-3 tie vote today. Republican Heather Carter joined with Democrats Ken Clark and Jonathan Larkin to defeat the bill. Be sure to thank Heather Carter for standing up to do the right thing.
Unfortunately, this is the kind of bill that will get attached to another bill in the dying days of the session — it is never over until sine die. You have to watch these guys like a hawk.
Buried in reporting on another bill this morning, Arizona Senate gives initial OK to election signatures measure was this at the end of the report:
Senate Bill 1340 by Sen. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, requires any person who delivers more than ten early ballots provide photo identification for public record.
Shooter’s bill failed to pass, but an amendment making it a felony for anyone but a family member or candidate to collect early ballots from voters will get a second chance at life in the Arizona House.
I have been told that the House began debating this bill this morning, but I do not find the strike everything to SB 1340 from last week on the calendar for today.
UPDATE: The Arizona Daily Star reports, Arizona bill making early ballot collection illegal advances:
Republican lawmakers voted Wednesday to keep groups that may have special interests from picking up early ballots and taking them to the polls.
But not politicians themselves.
[C]urrent law allows any individual to go to anyone’s home and offer to pick up that ballot and promise to drop it off.
But Sen. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, said that creates a huge opportunity for fraud.
Shooter said he’s heard about groups that collect large numbers of ballots, put them in a microwave with a bowl of water, steam them open and then only submit the ballots where voters are backing their favored candidates.
But he conceded under questioning from House Minority Leader Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley, that’s unverified anecdotal evidence. And Shooter said while he reported what he heard, no one was ever charged, he said because no one was willing to testify.
* * *
Eric Spencer, the state’s elections director, also provided no specific cases of fraud. But he told members of the House Appropriations Committee that his boss, Secretary of State Michele Reagan, believes it is necessary to make felons out of those engaged in “ballot harvesting.”
“Does it really take a scandal, does it really take a crime for us to react?” he said, saying the failure of lawmakers to approve SB 1339 would amount to “legislative malpractice.”
The measure was approved by the Republican-controlled committee on a 9-5 party-line vote and now goes to the full House.
* * *
The legislation would make it a felony, with a presumptive sentence of a year in state prison, for any individual to pick up more than two early ballots from anyone else.
There are exceptions for family members, people living in the same home and caregivers including those who work in a nursing home where someone resides. And the measure also allows candidates and their spouses to collect as many ballots as they want.
Shooter acknowledged after Wednesday’s hearing that candidates would have as much interest in steaming open ballot envelopes as any other special interest and discarding votes they don’t like.
“I can’t argue with that logic,” he told Capitol Media Services. But Shooter said the exception exists for candidates because “there’s a long-standing tradition for candidates to be able to do that.”
Anyway, Shooter said, the restrictions on everyone else being able to collect ballots do not create a real hardship for voters. He said they can simply put them in the mail.
Meyer, however, said that only works if the ballot is mailed early enough to get to county offices by Election Day. He said voters often wait until the last minute to learn everything they can about candidates.
Jennifer Loredo, lobbyist for the Arizona Education Association, had a more concrete example.
She said teachers are concerned about how the Legislature has financially shorted public schools. The result, Loredo said, is schools are more dependent on bond issues and overrides, elections that can show in the last days could be close.
“What a lot of our teachers and our school employees do is they get voter lists and they go and they walk their neighborhoods,” she said. “They talk to parents of children they have taught and they get those people to fill out their ballot and return it to them, someone that they trust, so that person can go and turn it in to the elections office.”
* * *
Spencer acknowledged that enforcement may be another matter.
He said no one who brings ballots to a polling place would be asked for identification or proof of being a family member or caregiver. And Spencer said that, no matter what, every ballot would be counted, even if election officials believe ballots were illegally harvested.
So once again we have wild-eyed Tea-Publicans who reject empirical evidence in favor of “it could happen” in their fevered minds. Tea-Publicans live in the fact-free world of conspiracy theory land in the conservative media entertainment complex. This is not how sound public policy is made.
There are two opportunities to kill this striker bill. It must first be approved by the full House, and then it has to go over to the Senate. Get busy, people.