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Every Arizona voter would be purged from the rolls once a decade and have to re-register under a proposal Republicans in the state Senate advanced this week.
The move not only flies in the face of democracy, but it is a blatant violation of federal law, critics told GOP state senators, some of whom agreed but still ignored their pleadings.
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The measure from Sun City Republican Sen. Frank Carroll, Senate Bill 1566, would cancel every voter registration in the Grand Canyon State on April 2 of 2031 and every 10 years after that, forcing all voters to re-register each decade.
Jen Marson, executive director of the Arizona Association of Counties, told the Senate Elections Committee on Monday that her organization opposes the bill simply because it violates the National Voter Registration Act, which limits the reasons for which a person can be removed from a state’s voter rolls to a voter’s death, if they move outside of the jurisdiction or if the voter requests to be removed.
That federal law also specifies that a voter must be informed prior to being removed from the voter rolls, not afterward, as is outlined in the proposed law.
Carroll didn’t attend the meeting to explain or defend his bill, but Senate Majority Leader Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, said that the voter rolls needed to be cleaned up, repeating the debunked claim that workers during Senate’s partisan review of the 2020 election found numerous instances of ballots cast in the name of voters who died prior to the election.
Last August, then-Attorney General Mark Brnovich informed the Senate in a letter that, out of 282 allegations of deceased voters casting a ballot in the 2020 general election, only one claim was found to be valid.
This is probably the most insulting bill we’ve entertained this session.
– Sen. Juan Mendez, D-Tempe
Ben Scheel, executive director of the left-leaning nonprofit Opportunity Arizona, called the proposal “illegal and entirely unworkable” for county election departments, which would collectively have to re-register millions of voters every 10 years. As of January, there were nearly 4.2 million registered voters in Arizona.
“This bill flies in the face of American democracy by simply removing voters for no stated reason,” Scheel said.
Other Republicans on the Elections Committee, including Sens. John Kavanagh of Fountain Hills and Ken Bennett of Prescott, also criticized the bill, with Sen. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, admitting that he didn’t view the legislation as “legitimate.” But they all voted for the bill anyway, and it passed through the committee along party lines.
Democratic Sen. Juan Mendez of Tempe said that cleaning up the voter rolls is not the same as kicking everyone off of them.
“This is probably the most insulting bill we’ve entertained this session,” Mendez said.
The measure is one in a slew of Republican-backed election reform bills that are all but certain to be met with a swift veto from Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs if they make it past the full legislature.
Since the start of the legislative session last month, the Senate Election Committee, headed by prominent election conspiracy theorist Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, has invited in a parade of election-deniers and believers that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump to give presentations on their view of the failings of elections in Arizona, with a focus on Maricopa County.
Many of the proposed bills the committee has forwarded so far this year aim to fix alleged issues detailed by these speakers, including unproven claims of election tampering or fraud.
Another proposal that won the approval of the Senate Elections Committee on Feb. 13 was Senate Bill 1140, which would ban the state from using voting centers where anyone in a county can vote and force counties to return to a precinct voting model, where voters are required to show up at a specified voting site that serves a small, set population. Supporters say doing so would get rid of issues with lines and problems with ballot-on-demand printers that caused uproar and delays in Maricopa County’s November election.
But detractors say precinct voting is less convenient because voters are stuck with one location and can’t choose to vote near their work or school. It also leads to fewer votes being counted: Voters who show up at the wrong polling site can cast a provisional ballot, the vast majority of which end up being rejected because if a voter shows up at the wrong precinct, their vote can’t be counted.
The bill would also require public schools to allow counties to set up polling places in their gymnasiums, unless they provide a written statement detailing that they don’t have enough space or believe that hosting a polling place would put student safety at risk.
The committee also forwarded bills that would:
- Put new drafts of the Secretary of State’s elections manual before Joint Legislative Audit Committee for review
- Publish a list of registered voters, along with their birth year and precinct, ahead of each election, as well as a list of voters and images of all ballots after the election
- And push up the deadline to drop off an early ballot ahead of an election, in an effort to speed up tabulation
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