The battle over voting rights in the Arizona legislature

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A battle is underway for the future of voting rights in Arizona, featuring Democratic lawmakers who want to expand voting opportunities fighting with Republican lawmakers who want to add new restrictions.

The Phoenix New Times reports, Arizona Legislators Launch Dueling Proposals on Voting Rights and Elections:

Democratic legislators unveiled a House resolution on Thursday that would create an “Arizona voters bill of rights,” and promised legislation to expand access to the ballot. At the same time, Republicans, who are in the majority, filed a flurry of bills during the first days of the legislative session that could make it more difficult for people to vote.

Representative Reginald Bolding of Phoenix, the Democratic co-whip, said at a Capitol news conference that Arizona law needs to include clear language on the right to vote.

“Over the last several years in this state, we’ve seen the headlines, we’ve read the stories, and unfortunately many of us have witnessed or experienced the attempts to put barriers or inefficiencies in place for individuals to participate in democracy through casting their vote,” Bolding said.

The proposed Democratic resolution on a “voters bill of rights” says that all voters in Arizona have the right to vote without facing unnecessary barriers, no matter where they live or what language they speak. Voters also have the right to propose and enact laws, vote by mail, and know that their elected officials are working for voters and not donors or lobbyists, the resolution says.

Because it is a resolution and not a bill, HCR 2015 is symbolic and would have no practical legal application. But as a political tactic, the resolution is a shrewd way to pressure Republicans to sign on or explain why they don’t support making it easier to vote.

Joel Edman, the executive director of the progressive Arizona Advocacy Network, said that the voting bill of rights is meant to serve as “a declaration of principles.” Other bills expanding voting access will “make those rights a reality,” he said.

“The idea is, I think, to state what a positive vision looks like to start, and then sketch out details,” Edman said in an interview after the press conference.

Additionally, Democratic Representative Athena Salman of Tempe announced at the new conference that she will file a bill on Monday seeking to enshrine the right to vote in Arizona’s constitution “so that the voters of Arizona understand that the highest governing document in Arizona protects their right to vote.”

Note: A fundamental constitutional right is subject to strict scrutiny review in the courts for legislative actions, the highest standard of review. There must be a compelling governmental interest for restrictions on a fundamental right. It also must be narrowly tailored, and the least restrictive means for achieving that governmental interest.  Currently, Arizona election laws are only subject to rational basis review, the lowest standard of judicial review.

Arizona’s Constitution currently states, “No person shall be entitled to vote at any general election” unless they meet criteria of age, residence, and citizenship.

Arizona is the only state that does not include explicit language granting the right to vote in its constitution.

Salman wants to amend the Constitution so the state no longer frames voting in the negative, she said, and characterized the way voting is treated in Arizona’s Constitution as unique among the 50 states.

If the Legislature passes Salman’s bill, voters would have to approve the proposed constitutional amendment in a referendum during the 2020 election.

Democrats are still the minority party in the Legislature, with a narrow 31-29 margin in the House. The voter bill-of-rights resolution and other items of legislation will most likely face a Republican blockade in committee or on the floor.

Many Republican-sponsored bills that would restrict opportunities to vote are already in the legislative hopper.

One measure authored by Republican Representative Bob Thorpe, HB 2130, would cancel a voter’s registration if the individual does not vote in two consecutive primary and general elections for federal office after receiving a notice from the country recorder asking if the voter’s address has changed.

At present, the county recorder asks for address confirmation after a piece of mail sent to a voter is returned undelivered. If a voter does not confirm their address, the voter’s registration status is changed from active to inactive, but it is not cancelled until they don’t vote in the next two general elections.

Essentially, Thorpe’s bill would reduce the amount of time county recorders have to wait before kicking people off the voter rolls from two election cycles to one.

Thorpe represents Flagstaff’s District 6, and made news in 2017 for a bill which would prevent college students from registering to vote using their dorm or university address. At the time, Thorpe argued that college students “unfairly influence” local elections. He did not immediately return requests for comment.

Other bills appear to target election procedures in Arizona’s largest county, where a Democrat currently serves as county recorder.

HB 2140, sponsored by Republican Representative John Fillmore, would prohibit the board of supervisors of each county from authorizing county recorders to operate a so-called “emergency voting center,” where voters can cast a ballot ahead of the election at their convenience, beginning at 5 p.m. on the Friday preceding the election.

HB 2140 also prohibits county recorders from verifying signatures on early ballots after 7 p.m. on Election Day.

Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes, a Democrat, became the focal point of GOP ire in November for both of these practices: opening emergency voting centers on the weekend before the election and verifying voter signatures on ballots by contacting them after polls closed. Fontes’ office has said that fewer than 3,000 votes were cast at the five emergency voting centers around the county.

Fillmore’s colleagues, including Republican Representative Frank Carroll and four co-sponsors, have filed a similar bill restricting voting centers. A second voting bill from Carroll would authorize Arizona’s attorney general to challenge the constitutionality of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 in court. Requests for comment to Carroll were not returned.

Another influential lawmaker is pushing to tighten Arizona’s popular system of voting by mail.

Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita’s SB 1046 would force voters on the Permanent Early Voting List who receive ballots in the mail ahead of the election to return them by mail only, barring them from dropping off a completed ballot at an early voting center or a polling place on Election Day.

She explained to the Arizona Mirror that people who receive early ballots should take responsibility and send them back by mail. “That is what early voting is, that you get it in the mail and return it in the mail. There’s a responsibility on the voter’s part,” Ugenti-Rita said.

Besides their new resolution, Democrats have struck back in the partisan duel over voting rights, authoring bills of their own.

Several of the Democrats at Thursday’s press conference have sponsored a bill (HB 2211) that would do the opposite of the bills restricting emergency voting centers, and instead ensure county recorders can operate early-voting centers during the three days leading up to an election.

Another pair of bills sponsored by Democratic Representative Raquel Terán would enact same-day voter registration at polling places on Election Day and automatic voter registration upon applying for a driver’s license or a non-operating identification license.

Arizona should join our Western state neighbors in the 21st Century. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have already approved automatic voter registration with more states expected to pass the reform soon. Brennan Center for Justice: Automatic Voter Registration.

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The National Conference of State Legislatures, NCSL Election Legislation Databases Home Page (as of 1/17/19) lists the following election bills in the Arizona legislature:

Early Voting List and Mailing Ballot

Status: Pending – Senate Judiciary Committee
Date of Last Action:*  1/14/2019
Author: Ugenti-Rita (R)
Topics: Absentee Voting-Permanent Status, Absentee Voting-Returning Ballots
Summary: Relates to early voting list, relates to mailing ballot.

Early Ballots and Deficiencies

Status: Pending – Senate Judiciary Committee
Date of Last Action:*  1/14/2019
Author: Ugenti-Rita (R)
Topics: Absentee Voting-Misc., Counting Votes
Summary: Relates to Early ballots, relates to deficiencies, relates to cure period.

Presidential Preference Election

Status: Pending – Senate Judiciary Committee
Date of Last Action:*  1/14/2019
Author: Quezada (D)
Topics: Political Parties, Primaries-Presidential
Summary: Relates to presidential preference election, relates to independent voters.

Early Voting Centers

Status: Pending – Senate Judiciary Committee
Date of Last Action:*  1/15/2019
Author: Ugenti-Rita (R)
Topics: Absentee Voting-Early Voting/In-Person Absentee, Voter Identification
Summary: Relates to early voting centers, relates to identification required.

Emergency Voting Procedures and Board Action

Status: Pending – Senate Judiciary Committee
Date of Last Action:*  1/16/2019
Author: Ugenti-Rita (R)
Topics: Absentee Voting-Early Voting/In-Person Absentee, Emergencies/Disasters
Summary: Relates to emergency voting procedures, relates to board action.

Voting Rights and Restoration

Status: Pending – SENATE
Date of Last Action:*  1/18/2019
Author: Quezada (D)
Topics: Voters-Felon Voting Rights
Summary: Relates to voting rights, relates to restoration, relates to felonies.

Article V Convention Electors and Citizenship

Status: Pending – HOUSE
Date of Last Action:*  1/14/2019
Author: Finchem (R)
Topics: Voters-Miscellaneous Qualifications
Summary: Relates to Article V conventions, relates to electors, relates to citizenship.

Conduct of Elections and Voters Rights

Status: Pending – HOUSE
Date of Last Action:*  1/17/2019
Author: Bolding (D) Additional Authors: Fernandez (D);Friese (D);Blanc (D);Salman (D);Longdon (D);Pawlik (D);Teran (D)
Topics: Miscellaneous
Summary: Relates to conduct of elections, relates to voters’ rights.

Federal Form Voter Registrations and Reporting

Status: Pending – HOUSE
Date of Last Action:*  1/14/2019
Author: Townsend (R)
Topics: Election Data-Collection/Retention of, Registration-Misc.
Summary: Relates to federal form voter registrations, relates to reporting.

Political Parties and Proxies

Status: Pending – HOUSE
Date of Last Action:*  1/14/2019
Author: Lawrence (R)
Topics: Political Parties
Summary: Relates to political parties, relates to proxies.

Federal Office Ballots

Status: Pending – HOUSE
Date of Last Action:*  1/14/2019
Author: Fillmore (R)
Topics: Polling Places-Arrangement of/Procedures at
Summary: Relates to federal office ballots, relates to voter assistance.

Primary Election Date

Status: Pending – HOUSE
Date of Last Action:*  1/14/2019
Author: Shope (R)
Topics: Primaries-Dates
Summary: Relates to primary election date.

Voting Rights and Restoration

Status: Pending – HOUSE
Date of Last Action:*  1/15/2019
Author: Espinoza (D) Additional Authors: Meza (D);Rodriguez (D);Longdon (D);Jermaine (D);Hernandez A (D);Cano (D);Cook (R);Chavez (D);Blanc (D);Friese (D);Rivero (R);Fernandez (D);Cobb (R);Campbell (R);Andrade (D);Gabaldon (D);Sierra (D)
Topics: Voters-Felon Voting Rights
Summary: Relates to voting rights, relates to restoration, relates to felonies.

Nomination Petitions and Filing Period

Status: Pending – HOUSE
Date of Last Action:*  1/15/2019
Author: Thorpe (R)
Topics: Ballot Access-Candidates
Summary: Relates to nomination petitions, relates to filing period.

Voter Registration and Inactive Voters

Status: Pending – HOUSE
Date of Last Action:*  1/15/2019
Author: Thorpe (R)
Topics: Registration-List Maintenance
Summary: Relates to voter registration, relates to inactive voters, relates to removal.

Voter Registration

Status: Pending – HOUSE
Date of Last Action:*  1/15/2019
Author: Thorpe (R)
Topics: Registration-Electronic, Registration-List Maintenance
Summary: Relates to voter registration, relates to updates, relates to internet address.

Early Emergency Voting and Deficiencies

Status: Pending – HOUSE
Date of Last Action:*  1/16/2019
Author: Fillmore (R)
Topics: Absentee Voting-Distributing Ballots, Absentee Voting-Early Voting/In-Person Absentee, Emergencies/Disasters, Polling Places-Hours
Summary: Relates to early, emergency voting, relates to deficiencies.

Poll Workers and Party Observers

Status: Pending – HOUSE
Date of Last Action:*  1/16/2019
Author: Townsend (R)
Topics: Political Parties, Poll Workers-Selection/Qualifications of, Poll Watchers
Summary: Relates to poll workers, relates to party observers.

Public Assistance and Voter Eligibility

Status: Pending – HOUSE
Date of Last Action:*  1/16/2019
Author: Townsend (R)
Topics: Registration-Misc.
Summary: Relates to public assistance, relates to voter eligibility, relates to correspondence.

Early Ballots and Polling Places

Status: Pending – HOUSE
Date of Last Action:*  1/16/2019
Author: Carroll (R) Additional Authors: Payne (R);Toma (R);Dunn (R);Biasiucci (R);Blackman (R);Bolick (R);Osborne (R)
Topics: Absentee Voting-Early Voting/In-Person Absentee, Absentee Voting-Returning Ballots, Counting Votes
Summary: Relates to early ballots, relates to polling place, relates to tabulation.

Damaged Ballots and Voter Notice

Status: Pending – HOUSE
Date of Last Action:*  1/16/2019
Author: Carroll (R) Additional Authors: Livingston (R);Payne (R);Toma (R);Biasiucci (R);Blackman (R);Bolick (R);Osborne (R)
Topics: Ballots-Format & Design, Counting Votes
Summary: Relates to damaged ballots, relates to voter notice, relates to duplication.

National Voter Registration Act

Status: Pending – HOUSE
Date of Last Action:*  1/16/2019
Author: Carroll (R) Additional Authors: Cook (R);Payne (R);Toma (R);Biasiucci (R);Blackman (R);Bolick (R);Osborne (R)
Topics: Registration-Misc.
Summary: Relates to National Voter Registration Act, relates to challenge.

Primary Election Date

Status: Pending – HOUSE
Date of Last Action:*  1/16/2019
Author: Carroll (R) Additional Authors: Livingston (R);Toma (R);Biasiucci (R);Blackman (R);Bolick (R)
Topics: Primaries-Dates
Summary: Relates to primary election date.

Emergency Voting Centers

Status: Pending – HOUSE
Date of Last Action:*  1/16/2019
Author: Carroll (R) Additional Authors: Payne (R);Toma (R);Biasiucci (R);Blackman (R);Bolick (R)
Topics: Absentee Voting-Early Voting/In-Person Absentee, Emergencies/Disasters, Polling Places-Hours
Summary: Relates to emergency voting centers, relates to limitation.

Partisan Offices and Cities

Status: Pending – HOUSE
Date of Last Action:*  1/16/2019
Author: Carroll (R) Additional Authors: Livingston (R);Payne (R);Toma (R);Biasiucci (R);Blackman (R);Bolick (R)
Topics: Political Parties
Summary: Relates to partisan offices, relates to cities, relates to towns.

Permanent Early Voting List

Status: Pending – HOUSE
Date of Last Action:*  1/16/2019
Author: Carroll (R) Additional Authors: Payne (R)
Topics: Absentee Voting-Permanent Status
Summary: Relates to permanent early voting list, relates to repeal.

Early Ballots

Status: Pending – HOUSE
Date of Last Action:*  1/16/2019
Author: Rodriguez (D) Additional Authors: Andrade (D);Teran (D);Sierra (D);Longdon (D);DeGrazia (D);Cano (D);Salman (D);Powers Hannley (D);Epstein (D);Engel (D);Butler (D);Blanc (D);Espinoza (D);Tsosie (D)
Topics: Absentee Voting-Returning Ballots
Summary: Relates to early ballots, relates to affidavit, relates to collection.

Early Ballot Collection

Status: Pending – HOUSE
Date of Last Action:*  1/16/2019
Author: Rodriguez (D) Additional Authors: Andrade (D);Teran (D);Sierra (D);Longdon (D);Jermaine (D);DeGrazia (D);Cano (D);Salman (D);Powers Hannley (D);Epstein (D);Engel (D);Butler (D);Blanc (D);Espinoza (D);Tsosie (D)
Topics: Absentee Voting-Returning Ballots
Summary: Relates to early ballot collection, relates to limitations, relates to repeal.

Voting Centers and Board of Supervisors

Status: Pending – HOUSE
Date of Last Action:*  1/16/2019
Author: Rodriguez (D) Additional Authors: Andrade (D);Teran (D);Sierra (D);Longdon (D);Jermaine (D);DeGrazia (D);Cano (D);Salman (D);Powers Hannley (D);Epstein (D);Engel (D);Butler (D);Blanc (D);Espinoza (D);Tsosie (D)
Topics: Absentee Voting-Early Voting/In-Person Absentee, Absentee Voting-Returning Ballots
Summary: Relates to voting centers, relates to board of supervisors.

Automatic Voter Registration

Status: Pending – HOUSE
Date of Last Action:*  1/16/2019
Author: Teran (D) Additional Authors: Meza (D);Sierra (D);Rodriguez (D);Pawlik (D);Longdon (D);Jermaine (D);Cano (D);Salman (D);Epstein (D);Chavez (D);Butler (D);Blanc (D);Friese (D);Andrade (D);Gabaldon (D);Tsosie (D)
Topics: Registration-Automatic
Summary: Relates to automatic voter registration, relates to licenses, relates to IDs.

Voter Registration Same Day

Status: Pending – HOUSE
Date of Last Action:*  1/16/2019
Author: Teran (D) Additional Authors: Meza (D);Sierra (D);Rodriguez (D);Pawlik (D);Longdon (D);Jermaine (D);Salman (D);Chavez (D);Blanc (D);Friese (D);Andrade (D);Gabaldon (D);Tsosie (D)
Topics: Registration-Election Day
Summary: Relates to voter registration same day.

Ballot and Presidential Candidates

Status: Pending – HOUSE
Date of Last Action:*  1/16/2019
Author: Townsend (R)
Topics: Ballots-Format & Design
Summary: Relates to technical correction, relates to ballot, relates to presidential candidates.

Election Equipment

Status: Pending – HOUSE
Date of Last Action:*  1/17/2019
Author: Fernandez (D) Additional Authors: Andrade (D);Salman (D);Pawlik (D);Sierra (D)
Topics: Cost of Elections, Voting Equipment/Technology-Selection & Standards
Summary: Relates to appropriation, relates to election equipment.

Voting Rights and Felonies

Status: Pending – HOUSE
Date of Last Action:*  1/17/2019
Author: Engel (D) Additional Authors: Gonzales (D);Mendez (D);Blanc (D);Rodriguez (D)
Topics: Voters-Felon Voting Rights
Summary: Relates to voting rights, relates to felonies, relates to automatic restoration.

National Popular Vote and Interstate Agreement

Status: Pending – HOUSE
Date of Last Action:*  1/17/2019
Author: Powers Hannley (D) Additional Authors: Gonzales (D);Teller (D);Rodriguez (D);Jermaine (D);Peten (D);Salman (D);Blanc (D);Andrade (D);Gabaldon (D);Teran (D)
Topics: Electoral College-National Popular Vote
Summary: Relates to national popular vote, relates to interstate agreement.

Election Procedures Oversight Committee

Status: Pending – HOUSE
Date of Last Action:*  1/17/2019
Author: Townsend (R)
Topics: Counting Votes, Registration-Misc., Task Forces/Study Commissions/Interim Committees, Cybersecurity
Summary: Relates to election procedures oversight committee.

Emergency Voting and Ballots

Status: Pending – HOUSE
Date of Last Action:*  1/17/2019
Author: Townsend (R)
Topics: Counting Votes, Emergencies/Disasters
Summary: Relates to emergency voting, relates to ballots, relates to labels.





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