Election Bills Before House Committee Address Early Ballots, Write-In Candidates, And More

The House Committee on Government & Elections will consider a number of bills Wednesday morning aimed at improving election integrity and voter confidence.

On the agenda are several bills introduced by Rep. John Kavanagh, the committee chairman. One is HB2361 which would allow the tallying of early ballots as soon as the ballot envelope and affidavit is processed.

Currently county election officials cannot start to tally early ballots until 14 days before election day. This posed several challenges during the 2020 General Election due to the vast majority of voters who utilized early ballots in place of in-person voting.

Another bill, HB2181, increases the time period that a write-in candidate must file nomination papers from 40 days before an election to 76 days before, bringing it in line with other write-in related deadlines. And the bill would require a write-in candidate to be a qualified elector as well as a resident of the city, county, district, or town they want to represent for 120 days before the election.

The house committee will also consider HB2363, which would allow cities and towns to train employees to work on elections with the approval of the Arizona Secretary of State (SOS). Currently such training and certification of election officers must be conducted by the SOS, which must be reimbursed by the municipality for the cost of the training.

HB2307 would require an election official to provide an explanation to any in-person voter whose ballot triggers an overvote warning when inserted into an electronic ballot box. Similar to SB1025 introduced by Sen. Kelly Townsend, it would ensure voters understand that overriding the warning means none of the votes cast in an overvoted section of the ballot will be counted.

The committee is also expected to consider whether to replace Rep. Gail Griffin’s hand count bill HB2039 with the language of Sen. J.D. Mesnard’s SB1010. Mesnard’s bill would require counties to conduct hand counts based on precincts, even if a voting center system is in place.

SB1010 also increases the number of post-election hand counts a county must conduct of in-person ballots from two percent of all precincts to five percent or the number of precincts required to achieve a statistical significance consisting of a 99 percent confidence level with a margin of error of 1 percent, whichever is greater.

The bill also addresses who can request a hand recount in a contest that is not subject to an automatic recount.