Ducey defends Arizona’s ‘model’ elections, but says he might sign bills restricting voting

By: - March 22, 2021 4:22 pm

Gov. Doug Ducey speaks at a press conference on Dec. 2, 2020. Photo by Ross D. Franklin | Associated Press/pool photo

Gov. Doug Ducey’s repeated insistence that Arizona election laws make it “easy to vote and hard to cheat” won’t necessarily stop him from signing legislation that would make it more difficult for some people to vote.

Republican lawmakers have proposed a number of bills this session that would restrict or hinder voting access in the name of fighting election fraud, despite no evidence that fraud is a problem in Arizona. Ducey did not specify which bills he might sign — he generally doesn’t comment on pending legislation — but left the door open to signing some of the proposals.

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“I’ve said that nothing in public life or private life is perfect. That’s what we call reform. That’s what we call continuous improvement. And I know there’s ideas in the legislature. And while I don’t comment on legislation while it’s moving, I’m interested,” Ducey said on Monday during a press conference at the Executive Tower.

Among the election-related bills still working their way through the legislative process are proposals to purge the Permanent Early Voting List of people who don’t use their early ballots for two consecutive election cycles, and to require people who vote by early ballot to include proof of identification with their ballots. Election officials use voters’ signatures to verify their early ballots, a system that has proven highly secure for many years in numerous states, including Arizona, where early voting has been widely available for decades. 

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Ducey did not dispute that Arizona’s election system is secure. Even while former President Donald Trump falsely alleged that the voting by mail spawns fraud during the 2020 campaign, Ducey defended the system in Arizona, which began using mail-in voting in 1992. The overwhelming majority of Arizonans now vote by early ballot, which can be mailed in or dropped off in person. In 2020, more than 75% of all voters cast an early ballot; more than 90% did so in Maricopa County.

The governor, who has rarely addressed the baseless fraud allegations that Trump and many of his supporters have leveled at Arizona, noted he’s defended the integrity of the 2020 election in Arizona, and said he hasn’t changed that position.

“Part of the reason that gave me the confidence to defend Arizona is all the good reforms and improvements that we have had since 1992. In many ways, I think Arizona is a model state. We have a compendium of best practices in our state. Other states could benefit by applying what we already do here in Arizona,” Ducey said.

But that doesn’t mean Arizona shouldn’t enact additional laws in the defense of election integrity, Ducey said.

“We should never delude ourselves that we’re perfect or we’re no longer in need of improvement. I know there are some ideas around that in both chambers and certainly around the country,” he said.

Ducey didn’t elaborate on the legislative proposals he’s interested in, or what problems they would seek to solve.

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Not all elected officials in Arizona share Ducey’s confidence in the 2020 election. Former President Donald Trump and many of his supporters have repeatedly spread baseless allegations that the Arizona’s election, which President Joe Biden won by 10,457 votes, was marred by fraud. 

Despite a total lack of evidence to back up these claims and the failure of more than a half dozen lawsuits challenging the election results, Senate President Karen Fann has ordered an audit of the election in Maricopa County and has subpoenaed 2.1 million ballots, tabulation machines and other materials.

Ducey on Monday repeatedly sidestepped questions about the Senate Republicans’ pending audit, refusing to say whether he supported the effort or whether he believed it was necessary.

Asked whether the audit is fueling conspiracy theories about the election in Arizona, Ducey said, “I think we should do everything we can to build trust and rebuild trust in our democracy and our election system. Before I could give you an accurate answer on that question, we’ll have to see what the results of the audit are.”

Fann said last week that she’s close to finalizing her audit team, which hasn’t been selected in the three months since she first issued her subpoenas to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. A Maricopa County judge ruled last month that the supervisors must comply with the subpoenas, which they’d fought in court.

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Jeremy Duda
Jeremy Duda

Associate Editor Jeremy Duda is a Phoenix native and began his career in journalism in 2003 after graduating from the University of Arizona. Prior to joining the Arizona Mirror, he worked at the Arizona Capitol Times, where he spent eight years covering the Governor's Office and two years as editor of the Yellow Sheet Report. Before that, he wrote for the Hobbs News-Sun of Hobbs, NM, and the Daily Herald of Provo, Utah. Jeremy is also the author of the history book “If This Be Treason: the American Rogues and Rebels Who Walked the Line Between Dissent and Betrayal.”

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