Bill Expanding Voting Access For Arizona Inmates Clears Hurdle

Bill Expanding Voting Access For Arizona Inmates Clears Hurdle

By Daniel Stefanski |

A bill that would expand voting access to those in Arizona detention facilities cleared a major hurdle this week, though it may need some help to get past the finish line.

HB 2325, sponsored by Representative Alex Kolodin, deals with voting procedures for electors in detention. According to the purpose of the legislation provided by the Arizona Senate, HB 2325 “allows a qualified elector in pretrial detention to make a written request to have a ballot personally delivered to a jail for voting and prescribes requirements and procedures for a qualified elector voting from jail.”

On Monday, the Senate Elections Committee took up the bill for consideration before giving it a “do pass” recommendation with a party-line 5-3 vote. Although the Democrats on the committee did not appear opposed to the overarching concept of the bill, they refused to support the legislation even after a significant amount of time asking questions of the bill’s sponsor.

Not all Republicans on the committee, however, were 100% sold on the bill. Senator T.J. Shope encouraged Representative Kolodin to sit down with Arizona counties and other entities responsible for implementing the provisions of the legislation to work through outstanding issues and concerns. He did express appreciation for the bill sponsor’s willingness to address this issue and bring this proposal forward in the Arizona Legislature. Fellow Republican Senator Ken Bennett was a little more direct with his comments, though he voted “aye” on the bill, telling his fellow members that he “was informed his amendments weren’t welcome in committee.” He voted to pass the bill “for now,” but he opined that HB 2325 needed more work – possibly implying that the improvements were needed before it gained enough votes for final passage in the Senate.

At the start of consideration over the bill, Jen Marson with the Arizona Association of Counties shared that there were “a lot of issues” with HB 2325. Some of those concerns included that counties already have a method for people voting from jail, that the bill only addresses people with pre-trial adjudication, that most people are booked into jail without an identification or that detainees are not allowed to keep their identification with them in jail, and that phones could be brought into Arizona jails by those helping to facilitate the voting.

Committee Chair, Senator Wendy Rogers, asked Marson if there was anything about the bill she (or the association she represents) liked, to which Marson explained that “the umbrella statement (that people eligible to vote in a jail environment could vote) we’re on board with” – but the details presented lots of challenges.

Answering a question from Senator Borelli, Marson admitted that her association did not offer an amendment to the legislation because “they (the counties and the bill sponsor) were too far apart” on resolving their differences.

Senator Anna Hernandez was one of three Democrats to vote against the bill in committee but expressed a sense of regret that she couldn’t get to a yes on the legislation. She highlighted her perception that there wasn’t “a lot of willingness to amend this bill,” mentioning the issues of identification and federal detention centers as starting points for changes in a hypothetical new draft that she might be comfortable with. Hernandez did state that she was very supportive of the overall issue addressed by Kolodin’s bill, but because of her outstanding concerns, she would not be on board with the current version.

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