Two election integrity bills sponsored by Sen. JD Mesnard were signed into law by Gov. Doug Ducey this week in an effort to ensure consistency among the state’s 15 counties and more quickly remove ineligible voters from the rolls.
Senate Bill 1260 amends Arizona’s election law to require the state’s 15 county recorders to cancel someone’s voter registration upon confirmation that the person has registered to vote in another county. This will include removing the voter from the Active Early Voting used to mail ballots to voters signed up to received them in advance of election day.
SB1260 also makes it a Class 6 felony for any person to “knowingly” assist someone to vote in Arizona if the voter is registered in another state. This allows criminal charges to be filed is if someone forwards an Arizona early ballot to a voter at an address other than what is listed on the early ballot packet.
The legislation takes effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns for the session, so the provisions could be in place before the 2022 General Election.
Meanwhile, Senate Bill 1362 adds a new statute describing the process for on-site tabulation of early ballots brought by voters to a polling place on Election Day. Currently, those in-person “drop offs” might not be tabulated until the next day, a practice each county recorder or election director will now have the authority to set.
SB1362 also tweaks the criteria for when a county’s board of supervisors may reduce the number of polling places during an election. And it better defines the methods which election officials can use to reduce voter wait times at in-person polling places.
It too takes effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns for the session.
According to Mesnard (R-Chandler), the bills will help improve voter confidence in our elections.
“Democratic systems only work if our elections are secure and their integrity unmatched,” he said after the signing. “That means ensuring that each person has one vote and that their vote is properly counted.”
Cochise County Recorder David Stevens is one of the election officials across Arizona who closely followed Mesnard’s bills. He told Arizona Daily Independent his county already has a procedure for when a voter reportedly moves away, but there is a delay in dropping the voter until a notice to be mailed and a response received.
Under SB1260, the process will be sped up by not having to wait to hear back from the voter. This allows county recorders to cancel the voter’s registration upon official confirmation of new registration in another county.
As to the section of SB1260 making it a crime to forward someone’s early ballot to another address, Stevens noted he is waiting to hear what the consequences will be, and whether the statute applies to U.S. Postal Service personnel involved in the forwarding process.
Stevens explained that some counties already offer election day tabulation of early ballots as described in SB1362. On-site tabulation provides a “a more complete election total” which Stevens calls “a good thing.”
He added that while the provisions of SB1362 will entail more work, it will be minimal.
“In the long run, any attempt to have clean rolls is worth the work,” Stevens said.
During a State Senate briefing on Tuesday, True the Vote — the election integrity nonprofit behind the research for election fraud documentary “2000 Mules” — recommended Arizona clean up its voter rolls. Just several days before, Governor Doug Ducey vetoed a bill purging non-citizens and non-Arizonans from voter rolls.
The election integrity researchers also proposed an end to the mass mailing of ballots and drop boxes, as well as an increase in penalties for voter fraud. If ending the use of all drop boxes wasn’t feasible, the researchers proposed real-time video surveillance.
The bill vetoed by Ducey, HB2617, received support from House and Senate Republicans. It would’ve required the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) to submit information to the secretary of state every month regarding driver’s license or non-operating licenses issued in other states. Within 10 days, the secretary of state would then submit that information to the relevant county recorders to purge their voter rolls.
HB2617 would’ve also required the county recorder to compare their voter registration database to the Social Security Administration database on a monthly basis. Additionally, the secretary of state would’ve been required to report to the state legislature on a quarterly basis the death counts and voter registration cancellation notices issued to county recorders. Jury commissioners and managers would’ve been required to inform the secretary of state and their county recorder about individuals who indicated they weren’t U.S. citizens or living within the county.
The House and Senate may override Ducey’s veto with a two-thirds vote.
Ducey’s spokesman, C.J. Karamargin, said that the bill sponsor, State Representative Joseph Chaplik (R-Scottsdale), “knows” why Ducey vetoed the bill. Karamargin didn’t elaborate further.
In an explanatory letter, Ducey shared a concern that the legislation lacked due process for voters whose eligibility may be challenged, and that bad actors would capitalize on that aspect of the bill.
He criticized the bill’s implementation method as “vague” and lacking guidance for county recorders to execute properly. Ducey further criticized the residency determination provisions within the bill as subjective and lacking protections against false claims of non-residency.
Ducey didn’t object to the bill in its entirety. He commended the provisions directing ADOT, the secretary of state, and county recorders to communicate on proof of out-of-state licenses, new addresses, and non-citizenship.
Arizona Free Enterprise Club Vice President Aimee Yentes disagreed with Ducey’s concerns that the bill lacked due process for voters and that it would empower bad actors. However, Yentes expressed hope that they could work with Chaplik to bring a modified version of the bill more palatable to Ducey.
“This is a multi-pronged endeavor. You don’t fix all the numerous issues we have with election processes overnight or in just one session,” said Yentes.
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.”
More than 100,000 Arizona voters on the Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL) have not voted by early ballot in the past four years.
Think about that for a moment. These are people who asked to be on the PEVL but are choosing not to use the system. Not only does this waste taxpayers like you money by sending out unwanted ballots, but it compromises the integrity of our elections.
If someone isn’t using the system, they shouldn’t continue to receive an early ballot by mail. Thankfully, the Arizona Senate addressed the PEVL on Tuesday by passing SB1485, a bill sponsored by Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-LD23). And predictably, as the bill heads to the Arizona House, Democrats are losing their minds. While most of them are mischaracterizing this bill as “voter suppression,” others have called it a “full-on assault on Democracy,” and Representative Athena Salman (D-LD26) couldn’t help but label it as “racist.”
But while Arizona Democrats proceeded to hurl unhinged attacks and insults at proponents of the legislation, it’s important to look at what this bill actually does. And it’s not that complicated.
SB1485 simply changes the name of the list from the PEVL to the Early Voting List (EVL). That means voters can continue to vote early and by mail as long as they are on the list. But if an individual doesn’t vote by early ballot in both the primary election and the general election for two consecutive cycles, he or she will receive a notice from their county recorder. Failure to respond to the notice means the voter will be removed from the list.
As you can see, this isn’t some sinister conspiracy like Democrats are making it out to be.
There’s nothing in the bill that prevents a voter from being placed back on the list. And it certainly has no impact on someone’s voter registration status.