By Terri Jo Neff
A bill to limit the state’s 15 county recorders to participating in voter registration events only on government-owned locations appears to have died following pushback from election officials, including Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs.
SB1358 would amend state law to ban county recorders, who are elected to office, from engaging in voter registration events at any “location, facility or property” that is not government owned. However, the bill introduced by Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-LD23) has been mired in the Senate since Feb. 24.
ARS 16-134 currently requires a county recorders to make voter registration forms available free of charge at locations “throughout the county such as government offices, fire stations, public libraries and other locations open to the general public.” It also requires recorders to provide a voter registration form to any qualified person who makes such a request.
For years county recorders have utilized large-attendance events to help reach as many new voters as possible to maximize the return of their time and expense.
But Ugenti-Rita’s would restrict the elected county recorders from conducting voter registration activities at places like churches and synagogues, nursing homes, private colleges, homeowner association centers, American Legion halls, even shopping malls. And if the local county fair is held at property owned by a nonprofit group instead of the county, then that would be a no-no as well.
“I have seen where we’ve had a recorder who likes to frequent certain kinds of events at the exclusion of others,” Ugenti-Rita said during a meeting of the Senate Committee on Government, which she chairs. “We want to make sure we’re hitting all voters and not just setting up voter registration at certain events that may more align with our political views than others.”
Even if SB1358 were to pass out of the Senate its prospects for passing the House are uncertain due to strong opposition from the majority of the elected county recorders as well as the Arizona Association of Counties.