Pima Dems oppose voter suppression bills

by David Safier

The Executive Committee of the Pima County Democratic Party voted to oppose the passage of SB 1261 and SB1003, bills that would suppress voting in Arizona by making it easier to purge people from the early voting list (PEVL) and by forbidding people from carrying in other people's early ballots.

The Executive Committee of the Pima County Democratic Party (PCDP) strongly opposes the passage of SB 1261 and SB 1003 in the current legislative session. Both bills represent the continuation of a long history of voter suppression in Arizona by creating unnecessary obstacles to citizens who want to exercise that most fundamental of American liberties, the right to vote. SB 1261, sponsored by Senator Michelle Reagan (R), would make it easier to purge voters from the Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL).  Instead of allowing a voter to opt-out of PEVL, SB 1261 permits the automatic removal of a voter that fails to vote in two consecutive federal election cycles. She even added a last-minute amendment that would make the bill retroactive to 2010. By failing to engage stakeholders from their communities, Sen. Reagan and her backers created SB 1261 in a vacuum, with more attention to cutting voter lists than to ensuring maximum participation in elections. The Permanent Early Voting List has been a useful tool to help new voters participate in the democratic process.

SB 1003, another Reagan-sponsored bill, directly infringes on the efforts of thousands of neighbors and community organizers who help voters, including the disabled and elderly, vote by returning their completed early ballot for them. Don Jorgensen, Chair of the PCDP, said “In the 2012 election we saw long lines at the polls and confusion regarding provisional ballots and early ballots. Both Republican and Democratic members of the legislature should work together in a transparent way to find real solutions that encourage voter participation by all Arizonans. Instead, we have two bills that not only suppress voter inclusion, but also include unnecessary criminal penalties. It is unbelievable that an Arizona citizen could be charged with a felony for helping a fellow citizen to vote. These problems are better solved by voter education, not voter suppression.”

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