By Terri Jo Neff
Sen. Kelly Townsend was recently interviewed by Breitbart News about her refusal to vote for one of the Republican caucus’s most impactful election integrity bill, but she provided significantly incorrect information while explain the legislation, according to an election law expert.
Townsend surprised her colleagues earlier this month by voting “no” on SB1485, which Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs has the potential to remove more than 207,000 voter names from the Permanent Early Voter List (PEVL) due to inactivity. Removal from PEVL does not impact a voter’s registration status.
At the time, Townsend swore she would not vote for any election-related bills until the Senate received a final report on the ongoing audit of Maricopa County’s 2020 General Election. She also made a disparaging personal comment against SB1485 sponsor Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, a fellow Republican whom Townsend blames for “killing” all 18 election-related bills Townsend introduced this session.
“Mark my words, and my actions, I will not bend,” Townsend after the April 22 vote.
In her subsequent interview with Breitbart, Townsend is quoted as pushing back on criticism of her vote, contending that the changes to PEVL contained in SB1485 would not kick in until 2026 so there is no hurry.
“I demand reform for the 2022 election, and will only vote ‘yes’ on the 2026 election reform bill after the 2022 election reform bills are passed,” Townsend is quoted in the April 27 article. She also said it will take “four years from passage before voters who miss elections will be purged” from PEVL.
The problem, according to election legal expert Hans von Spakovsky, is that Townsend grossly misunderstood how soon the PEVL could be cleaned up if SB1485 is approved and signed by Gov. Doug Ducey this session. He notes that county recorders must advise those voters identified for being dropped “no later than” January 2023 but the process could be done well before the critical 2022 election.
“SB1485 will go into effect immediately after passage, not in 2026 as some have claimed,” said von Spakovsky. “County recorders can, and should, lawfully begin cleaning up the early voting list well before the 2022 midterm election, based on voter participation in the 2018 and 2020 election cycles.”
Townsend’s no vote on SB1485 was set to kill the legislation on a 15 to 15 ties but Ugenti-Rita voted against her own bill on the chance a reconsideration vote can be arranged yet this session. Meanwhile, Townsend’s threat to hold all of her party’s election legislation hostage has garnered attention from several organization which support more election integrity in Arizona.
One of those is Heritage Action For America.
“All conservatives should support this bill — we cannot delay in strengthening Arizona’s election system and restoring trust to voters,” said Jessica Anderson, executive director of Heritage Action.