In 2020, we were challenged in many ways. The year challenged our healthcare system, our economy, our families. It also challenged our democracy.
Elections officials responded to the challenge of conducting an election in the middle of a global pandemic by ensuring that voters understood and could easily access the myriad of voting options provided by Arizona law, as well as ensuring that in-person voting options were as safe as possible for both voters and poll workers. We encouraged voters to vote by mail, invested in secure drop-boxes, expanded the availability of early voting, used larger voting locations to allow for social distancing, and frequently used vote center models to allow voting wherever it was most convenient.
For their part, voters in Arizona welcomed these practices. Even amidst a massive misinformation campaign aimed at reducing voter confidence, we saw record voter turnout and large increases in Arizona’s already robust vote-by-mail system. After the election, both state and federal courts threw out lawsuit after lawsuit, upholding the will of the people and reaffirming that officials ran the election by the book.
Now is the time to take the lessons of the 2020 election and pass reforms that streamline election administration, expand voting rights, and enhance election security. Unfortunately, many in the Arizona Legislature are focused on doing the exact opposite: creating new burdens on the ability of elections officials to make voting as accessible as possible and making it more difficult for Arizonans to register and vote.
Indeed, some legislators who ran on platforms of limited government and expanded personal freedom apparently just can’t wait to cover the fundamental right to vote in red tape.
Arizona’s Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL), for example, has been a fixture of elections in Arizona since 2007. PEVL is a marvel of convenience, ensuring that voters on the list automatically receive a ballot by mail for every election in which they are eligible to vote. Yet after an election in which more than 80% of votes were cast by mail, Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, has introduced SB1069, a bill to purge thousands of voters from the PEVL.
Many Arizonans can relate to the experience of dropping off a spouse’s ballot, either at a polling place or into a mailbox. Unfortunately, Rep. Kevin Payne, R-Peoria, has introduced HB2369 to make this simple act a felony. Payne’s bill also creates a poll tax by requiring voters to have their ballot-by-mail notarized and would undermine elections officials’ ability to provide secure drop-box options for voters.
These are just two examples of dozens of bills that have already been introduced that would needlessly make it harder for Arizonans to vote and ensure their votes are counted. Our democracy truly faced challenges in 2020, but emerged unbroken. The proper response is not to retreat and make our democracy smaller. Rather, it’s time to double down — let’s eliminate arbitrary laws that complicate election administration, remove archaic barriers that disenfranchise Arizonans, and look for new solutions to secure our elections and promote voter confidence.
Arizonans expect their elected leaders to provide real solutions to real problems, and those who cannot do so should expect to be held accountable on Election Day. As Arizona’s chief election officer, I’m committed to fighting any new barriers that legislators seek to put between voters — their bosses — and the ballot box. Democracy is stronger when we all participate.