Arizona leads nation in proposals to suppress votes, groups say




Photo by Jim Small | Arizona Mirror

Local and national civic advocacy groups are paying close attention to a laundry list of proposed legislation in Arizona that would make it harder for voters to participate in elections. 

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, Arizona leads the nation in “proposed voter suppression legislation in 2021.” In a press call Tuesday morning, Stand Up America — a progressive organization working to increase voter participation — echoed this finding. 

“What is going in Arizona right now is particularly insidious,” said Christina Harvey, managing director of Stand Up America.

Harvey said 33 state legislatures have proposals that would make it harder for voters to cast their ballot. States like Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania — all battleground states with Republican legislatures that former President Donald Trump narrowly lost in November — are awash with restrictive voting measures, Harvey said. 

“Republicans, seeing that they increasingly cannot win free and fair elections, are trying to make it harder to vote for those who may not support them, rather offering a vision of America that might appeal to those voters,” Harvey said. “Arizona, a state Donald Trump lost by only 10,000 votes, leads the nation in the number of proposed voter suppression bills.”

Arizona community organizations and voting rights groups have identified approximately 40 bills introduced by Republican lawmakers that would purge eligible voters from early voting lists, make it harder for election officials to send out ballots over the mail, eliminate Arizona’s Permanent Early Voting List, change how Electoral College electors are selected and even allow legislators to overturn election results

“These are extremely dangerous proposals, and even if some of them may not make it out, even though some of them may not pass, they are evidence of a level of fanaticism and megalomania that is very disconcerting,” said Alex Gulotta, state director for All Voting Is Local Action Arizona. “They are designed to let less voices be heard.” 

Gulotta said these bills are inspired by lies and conspiracy theories amplified by Trump, his base, and the Arizona Republican Party following the results of the 2020 presidential race.

“They are coming at a time when leaders in our state legislature are still disputing the 2020 election results, they are still fighting over whether or not the election results that we secured and certified are valid,” he said. “They are blatant attempts to keep eligible voters from making their voices heard. We want our legislature to be concerned with engaging eligible voters rather than disrupting their access to the ballot.”

On Tuesday, a measure in the Senate to purge voters from the Permanent Early Voting List if they didn’t vote early in two consecutive elections failed after a single Republican, Sen. Paul Boyer of Phoenix, broke ranks and voted against Senate Bill 1069

That proposal would have removed between 100,000 to 150,000 people by the 2022 election, said Randy Perez, democracy director at Living United for Change Arizona. This attempt and other similar ones are specially disheartening when considering that Native, Latino and Black voters — groups that traditionally vote less frequently — had a deciding impact on the results of the presidential elections, Perez said. That voter engagement is the result of a decade-long work, he said. 

“Our growing power of communities of color, and our willingness and engagement to turn out in elections for the past ten years is being met with such resistance, blatant white supremacy and a naked attempt to hold on to power by the majority party at our state legislature,” he said. 

While Arizona legislators have tried before to limit voting early and it is harder for people to participate in elections, Perez said the 2021 legislative session is different. Lawmakers, he said, are using the same conspiracy theories and misinformation about election integrity that led to a violent insurrection at the nation’s Capitol on Jan. 6th to justify their proposals

“I don’t think the big lies or the conspiracy theories have ever been this deeply ingrained in the Republican caucus nor their base, and it’s incredibly dangerous,” he said. 

This week is the deadline at the state legislature for proposals to pass through a committee in the chamber where they were introduced. For many bills, that spells the end of the line, though there are ways to resurrect proposals, even if the original version never was considered. 

The House Government and Elections Committee, which meets Wednesday morning, will review several bills that a coalition of groups say are dangerous and problematic. The committee will meet again on Thursday afternoon to hear additional bills before the deadline.

One bill, House Bill 2792, would make it a felony for any election officer to send a mail-in ballot to a voter who is not on the PEVL and has not requested it. House Bill 2794 would prohibit election deadlines from being modified, which happened in October when a court allowed people to register to vote several days past the voter registration deadline. (More Republicans than Democrats registered to vote in that extended period.)

And House Concurrent Resolution 2016, would ask voters to change the state constitution so that citizen initiatives must receive 60% of the vote to pass, instead of a simple majority of votes.