House Unexpectedly Rejects Identification Info On Early Ballot Affidavit

By Terri Jo Neff

Republicans have touted making changes to Arizona’s election laws since long before the current legislative session began Jan. 11. But only one major election-related bill has been signed by Gov. Doug Ducey so far, and on Wednesday another bill died and a third was put on hold.

In an unexpected move Wednesday, Republican Reps. Joel John and Michelle Udall cast their votes with all 29 House Democrats against SB1713, the Sen. J.D. Mesnard-sponsored bill which would have required voters to provide one bit of personal identification information on their early ballot affidavit before mailing it in.

SB1713 was introduced by Mesnard (R-LD17) in February to address concerns that a signature on the affidavit without some other identifying information was not sufficient to ensure ballot integrity.  The bill later sat in the House for nearly two months before being amended Wednesday to require an early ballot voter’s date of birth to be included on the voter’s affidavit long with their Arizona driver’s license (or non-operating state ID) number or voter registration number.

The amendment passed but a short time later the newly worded bill failed 29 to 31 when John (R-LD4) and Udall (R-LD25) voted no, effectively killing the bill for the session.

Meanwhile, another election-related bill is on life support despite efforts by Sen. Kelly Townsend (R-LD16) and Rep. John Kavanagh (R-LD23) to push through more than 20 changes to how Arizona’s elections are conducted, changes Townsend says are needed to ensure “election integrity, election reform, and election security.”

Among the varied topics covered in SB1241 are the handling of data storage devices used during elections, affidavits for persons who process or count ballots, chain of custody requirements for election equipment, and what to do if there is a conflict between the state’s Election Procedures Manual and state law (hint: the law wins).

SB1241 also makes it easier to cancel a voter’s registration in another state upon their move to Arizona, allows voters who cast ballots at a voting location to request a receipt, prohibits any tabulation equipment from being connected to the internet, and requires all tabulation results to remain in the United States.

Some violations of the bill could be prosecuted as a Class 2 misdemeanor. In addition, it would force county elections officials to report to the Arizona Attorney General or the local county attorney any “inconsistent” signatures on early ballot affidavits.

A scheduled Third Read of SB1241 on Wednesday did not happen due to budget negotiations which led to the House recessing for the next week or so.  Assuming it passed the House at some point, it would still need to go back to Senate to vote on the current amended version of the bill.