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.
While some politicians have called in the past for boycotts or buycotts of specific companies, Rep. Reginald Bolding (LD27) has raised the subject of whether the National Football League should consider pulling the February 2023 Super Bowl out of Arizona in response to the state’s new election laws.
Bolding, the House Democratic Leader, broached the issue in a May 11 letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on the same day the Senate passed SB1485, a bill which could remove more than 100,000 names from the early voting list of voters who continually fail to utilize the early ballot option.
The NFL announced in May 2018 that the Super Bowl LVII would be returning to Arizona in 2023 with a week-long list of activities culminating with the championship game. But in his letter, Bolding reminded Goodell the NFL reneged on its plan to hold the Super Bowl in Arizona in 1993 after legislators opted to not recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a state holiday.
“I am respectfully requesting that you add your powerful voice to a chorus of folks from a broad political spectrum to urge Governor Doug Ducey to veto this reprehensible legislation,” Bolding wrote to Goodell, adding “it is time for organizations like the NFL, the NCAA and the College Football National Championship to get off the sidelines and take a stand like Major League Baseball.”
The MLB reference relates to last month’s announcement that the All-Star Game was being moved from Atlanta to Denver after Georgia lawmakers made changes to the state’s election laws.
What Bolding didn’t know when sending his letter to Goodell was that Ducey signed SB1485 less than one hour after the legislation was transmitted to his desk.
Since then, Bolding’s suggestion that the NFL could consider pulling a premier sporting event has been heavily criticized for its negative impact on Arizona’s tourism and hospitality industries still reeling from the last 15 months of COVID-19 restrictions.
An economic study released after last year’s Super Bowl LIV in Miami showed that visitor spending -including spectators, media, teams, and NFL – brought in nearly $250 million to the Greater Miami area. There were also millions in short term labor income, and a $34 million bump in local and state tax revenues connected to the event.
Bolding’s letter to Goodell referred to a decision by Michael Bidwell, owner of the Arizona Cardinals, to join a few dozen Arizona business leaders to oppose some election-related legislation, including SB1485.
But Ducey made it clear when signing the bill that he found nothing nefarious about making changes to the state’s elections law.
“Arizona has for years continuously improved and refined our election laws —including intuitively renaming ‘absentee’ voting to ‘early’ voting— and constantly seeking to strengthen the security and integrity of our elections,” he said. “SB 1485 ensures Arizona remains a leader for inclusive, accessible, efficient and secure election administration.”
Bolding has continued to attack SB1485, although he has not repeated his panned comments about the NFL’s option to pull the Super Bowl from Arizona. The February 2023 game would be the fourth time the Super Bowl is held in the state.