By Corinne Murdock |
A bill to tighten up mail-in voting, SB1260, passed the House Government and Elections Committee along a party-line vote on Wednesday, 7-6.
SB1260, introduced by State Senator J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler), would make it a class 5 felony for someone to knowingly help another to vote who’s registered in another state. If made law, people would be required to write “not at this address” on an early ballot sent to their home but not addressed to them. There’s no penalty for not writing the phrase on the ballot. In return, county recorders would have to cancel that individual’s registration and remove their name from the Active Early Voting List (AEVL).
Mesnard explained during the committee hearing that Arizona law doesn’t currently have standards for handling those who’ve moved, such as duplicate registrations.
Minority Leader Reginald Bolding (D-Laveen) inquired how a prosecutor would determine that an individual knew they were helping another vote fraudulently, giving an example of a parent forwarding an absentee ballot to their college student who’d established residency and registered to vote in another state. Mesnard admitted that determining that someone “knowingly” facilitated fraudulent voting was difficult to prove, emphasizing that the burden to prove that would fall on the prosecutor.
“I don’t think it should be someone caught up in an innocent mistake,” said Mesnard.
State Representative Kevin Payne (R-Peoria) pointed out that the college student given in Bolding’s example would have to vote on the ballot for the parent’s mistake to be made apparent, and that the college student would be knowingly submitting a fraudulent vote.
State Representative Sarah Liguori (D-Phoenix) asked whether this was a real issue that occurred. Mesnard confirmed that he’d received reports of people submitting ballots to others registered in other counties.
“What does the statute say? Is the statute silent on it or does it address that? And it was silent on the issue,” said Mesnard.
Constituents in favor of the bill included Arizona Free Enterprise Club Deputy Director Greg Blackie, agreeing with Mesnard that current statute doesn’t address this problem that mailed ballots present.
Bolding claimed that counties already have a mechanism in place to address ballots sent to the wrong address, and he argued that the ignorant might be punished for unintentionally committing a crime.
“If they are somehow convicted by a rogue prosecutor, whether they’re at the local level or state level who’s looking to make a political point or score points,” said Bolding. “In this political environment right now, I think we need to be judicious in the laws that we’re making. We need to make sure we’re taking the politics out of it, especially when it comes to the electoral process.”
Liguori concurred with Bolding’s assessment, arguing that the legislation addressed a nonexistent problem.