By Corinne Murdock |
On Tuesday, the Arizona Senate passed a bill requiring voting locations to tabulate early ballots on site.
The bill, SB1105, passed 16-14 along party lines. The bill initially failed in the Senate, but received a second chance on reconsideration. However, the legislation wouldn’t apply to counties that tabulate Election Day ballots at a central location, and those that don’t otherwise tabulate Election Day ballots on-site at a polling location or voting center.
SB1105 from State Sen. Frank Carroll (R-LD28) modifies law to require rather than merely allow county officers in charge of elections to tabulate a voter’s early ballot on site on election day.
Officials who voiced opposition for the bill included Pima County Recorder Gabriella Cazares-Kelly, Mohave County Supervisor Jean Bishop, Mohave County Assessor Jeanne Kentch, and County Supervisors Association of Arizona Legislative Director Robin Hillyard.
During the Senate Elections Committee hearing on the bill in January, Senate Majority Leader Sonny Borrelli (R-LD30) called the legislation a “great, great bill” that “helps with accuracy.” Senate Assistant Minority Leader Juan Mendez (D-LD08) questioned what was more important: accuracy or speed. Borrelli responded that voting was a privilege worth waiting in line for, comparing voting lines to those lines people endure for things like movies and Disneyland.
“You can wait to stand in line, but you can’t wait for the election results to come out when they’re just going to come out?” asked Mendez.
“I’ve always advocated for accuracy, not speed,” said Borrelli.
Jen Marson, Arizona Association of Counties, said that her organization opposes the bill, calling it “unimplementable.” Marson relayed that only half of the counties in the state tabulate ballots on site. She questioned whether the bill would require all counties to tabulate on site.
The committee hearing preceded the amended version of the bill that passed the Senate on Tuesday, which included the exemption for counties that tabulate Election Day ballots at a central location.
Marson further warned that two separate polling places would have to be run within each location: one side for early ballot turn-ins, and one for on-site tabulation. She projected that not all locations would have enough space to run this size of operations. With that, Marson noted that counties would be required to have two separate boards, staff, and equipment to oversee these separate polling place operations.
In addition, Marson noted that it was difficult to find voting locations that are big enough and are ADA compliant. State Sen. John Kavanagh (R-LD03) pointed out that schools and churches are big enough and are ADA compliant, but Marson disclosed that counties are often told “no” by schools.
Marson questioned whether everyone would be required to stand in line rather than drop off an early ballot, and noted that there would need to be different tabulators for early ballots versus in-person, day-of ballots.
Democrats in the committee called the bill “problematic” and a “logistical mess.”
State Sen. Anna Hernandez (D-LD24) claimed that the bill would disenfranchise voters by requiring them to take the time to have their early ballot tabulated on site. Mendez concurred with Hernandez’s remarks, adding that it would make it harder for certain, undisclosed populations to vote.
State Sen. Ken Bennett (R-LD01) admitted that the bill was flawed but ultimately had good intentions. He voted for it in the hopes that the language would be cleaned up to address Marson’s warnings.
“If people are going to bring their early ballots to the polls, then show ID and let’s get those counted. But, half of the counties literally do not do tabulation at these voting centers. This bill is attempting to do something by striking the very language that gives the counties the flexibility, who don’t do on-site tabulation, to send it in and count it,” said Bennett.
These issues were addressed in an amendment on the bill, which provided the exemption for counties that tabulate Election Day ballots at a central location, and those counties that don’t otherwise tabulate Election Day ballots on site at a polling location or voting center.