By Terri Jo Neff |
In his first veto of the 2022 legislative session, Gov. Doug Ducey unexpectedly shot down an election integrity bill introduced by Rep. Joseph Chaplik (R-Scottsdale) with overwhelming support of the House Republican caucus.
House Bill 2617 dealt with the removal of voters from each county’s voter rolls, focused on non-U.S. citizens and non-Arizona residents. But Ducey announced his veto in a letter to Senate President Karen Fann and House Speaker Rusty Bowers. on Friday.
“Our lawfully registered voters deserve to know that their right to vote will not be disturbed without sufficient due process,” Ducey wrote. “This provision leaves our election system vulnerable to bad actors who could seek to falsely allege a voter is not a qualified elector.”
Chaplik’s HB2617 mandated county recorders to remove voters from their rolls based on a “reason to believe” the voter is not a U.S. citizen or a resident of the county. Such removal could not occur until the end of a detailed process which ensured the voter in question had 90 days to present satisfactory evidence that the person is in fact qualified to vote in their registered county.
The bill also included new reporting requirements for all jury commissioners and the Arizona Department of Transportation to help identify people who may no longer be eligible to vote in a specific county or were never eligible to vote in Arizona.
However, Ducey’s veto letter pointed to several concerns with the legislation, including the level of proof threshold.
“The subjectivity of this provision, as well as a lack of guardrails against false claims, included in H.B. 2617 leaves voter registration susceptible to being canceled based on fiction rather than fact,” Ducey wrote to Fann and Bowers.
But Ducey’s criticisms did not sit well with supporters who saw Chaplik’s bill as a much needed and long overdue opportunity to establish confidence in the legitimacy of Arizona’s voter rolls.
AZGOP chair Kelli Ward called Ducey’s move “unAmerican” while Rep. Jacqueline Parker (R-Mesa) tweeted that the governor “apparently wants dead people to be able to vote again.”
Sam Stone, former Phoenix city staffer and current city council candidate, was “hugely disappointed” in Ducey’s veto and questioned the governor’s motives.
“Cleaning up our voter rolls is essential to secure elections,” Stone tweeted. “There is not one legitimate reason to leave people who have died or moved on our voter rolls, especially with automatic vote-by-mail.
Stone further suggested “the only reason to leave people who have died or moved on our voter rolls” is to commit voter fraud.
Ducey’s veto brought forth a more detailed rebuke from the Arizona Free Enterprise Club (AFEC).
“Contrary to what is stated in the veto letter, #HB2617 provides ample safeguards to ensure eligible voters do not have their registrations improperly cancelled,” AFEC tweeted after the veto was announced. “In fact, the bill stipulates that counties must confirm that the voter is ineligible, then requires the county to send a notice to the voter.”
It is only after the registered voter fails to respond to the notice within 90 days that the registration would be cancelled, AFEC pointed out.
“A broad coalition of local and national election integrity leaders signed onto a letter urging Governor Ducey to sign HB2617, and explained in great detail the need for the enhanced voter roll maintenance requirements and the safeguards contained in the measure,” AFEC further tweeted.
The letter referred to by in the tweet was signed by AFEC President Scot Mussi along with representatives of Heritage Action for America, America First Policy Institute, Election Transparency Initiative, Honest Elections Project Action, FreedomWorks, Amax ACTION, and the Foundation for Government Accountability.
Ducey noted he would consider signing a new voter roll bill with revised language if Chaplik and the rest of the Legislature wants to consider his feedback.
FreedomWorks activist Merissa Hamilton is among those hopeful Chaplik will consider the governor’s criticisms and reintroduce a new version of HB2617 this session. She said a path to clean voter rolls is “needed to secure our Arizona elections.”