Mesnard Bill Aims To Strengthen Election Integrity, Speed Tabulation

Mesnard Bill Aims To Strengthen Election Integrity, Speed Tabulation

By Daniel Stefanski |

A bill to better secure the integrity of Arizona elections is making its way through the legislature, but it is meeting resistance from Democrats along the way.

SB 1595, which was sponsored by Senator J.D. Mesnard, deals with the identification and tabulation of early ballots. Last week, it cleared the Senate chamber with a 16-14 party-line vote. All Republicans supported the bill, and all Democrats opposed its passage.

According to the purpose of the legislation, which was provided by the State Senate, SB 1595 “prescribes additional requirements for an early ballot to be counted and valid. It requires a voter to present valid identification by the prescribed days after an election for a ballot that was delivered by a voter’s agents or a voter who does not provide sufficient identification. Also, it removes the requirement that the period of early voting must end at 5:00 pm on the Friday preceding the election.”

Senators Ken Bennett, Frank Carroll, Jake Hoffman, John Kavanagh, and Wendy Rogers joined as co-sponsors for Mesnard’s bill.

Senator Mesnard explained his reasoning for introducing this bill back in January: “An important bill I’m currently working on this session will speed up our election counts. I’ve heard from a number of you regarding the extended time it took to finish counting ballots this year. Folks across the country were asking, ‘Doesn’t Arizona know how to count?’”

The extended time is mostly a result of vote-by-mail voters who drop it off on Election Day instead of mailing their ballot back ahead of time, which take days or weeks to count because of signature verification requirements. If such folks were treated like those who vote in-person at the polls on Election Day—that is, be required to show ID prior to turning in their ballot—it will dramatically expedite election night results without compromising security, accuracy, or transparency.”

In a newsletter this week, Senator Mesnard announced the Senate action on his bill, writing, “Several of my bills that focus on improving our elections process by speeding up ballot tabulation, while preserving accuracy, security and transparency, have now passed the Senate and are advancing in the House. SB 1595 would ensure we treat people voting on or near election day the same, regardless of whether they were mailed a ballot. Those wishing to drop off their early ballot after the Friday before Election Day would have to adhere to the same ID requirements that those voting at the polls must follow. This will avoid the need to spend weeks signature verifying these last-minute ballots, a top reason for the constant delay in Arizona’s election results.”

Democrat Senator Priya Sundareshan voted no on SB 1595, explaining her rationale that “this bill falls under the category of bills that are making it harder to vote.” She also said that the legislation would change “the ability of people to drop their ballots off through Election Day,” and the increased identifications requirements for late drop-offs of early ballots would add “hurdles upon hurdles” for Arizona voters.

Before voting in favor of his bill, Senator Mesnard stated that there was “universal contempt for the time it takes us to count” the votes after Election Day, noting that 2022 voters for both Hobbs (Democrat candidate for governor) and Lake (Republican candidate for governor) shared this feeling.

Senator Juan Mendez also rose to explain his vote against SB 1595, continuing the Democrats’ fascination over highlighting so-called “election integrity conspiracies,” saying, “Earlier results will not reduce conspiracies,” and “appeasing conspiracies with further confusion only risks voter suppression.”

Representatives from the League of Women Voters of AZ, AZ State AFL-CIO, State Conference NAACP, and AZ Association of Counties all opposed SB 1595 as it progressed through the Arizona Senate. The bill now resides in the House of Representatives and will be considered there in the coming weeks.

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.