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Bill would mostly eliminate emergency voting in Arizona

By: - February 2, 2021 3:10 pm
Shawnna Bolick

Rep. Shawnna Bolick, R-Phoenix. Photo by Gage Skidmore | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Emergency voting in Arizona would be all but eliminated if a proposal from a Republican legislator becomes law.

The measure from Rep. Shawna Bolick, R-Phoenix, would only allow emergency voting \in times of war, civil unrest or a natural disaster. The proposal, House Bill 2722, would also allow voters to videotape and photograph election workers inside polling places, something that is expressly forbidden in current law. 

“I don’t know what problem this is trying to solve,” said Alex Gulotta, Arizona Director for voting advocacy group All Voting is Local. “It’s not based on any data, it does not help us, it hurts us.”

Under current law, a county’s board of supervisors is allowed to open emergency voting centers for in-person voting between 5 p.m. on the Friday before the election and 5 p.m. on the Monday before the election. 

What constitutes an emergency varies from county to county, and some Republicans in recent years have claimed that emergency voting centers are used not for real emergencies, but as opportunities for liberal groups to drive more voter turnout.

The bill also removes sections from the current law that allows a county recorder to establish an emergency voting center without approval from the board of supervisors in times of an emergency. 

And Bolick would change state law to weaken the Election Procedures Manual, which is published by the secretary of state every two years. Those rules, which are also approved by the attorney general and governor, guide county elections officials on how to implement state law. In instances where state law is silent, the Election Procedures Manual is given the force of law.

But HB2722 would change that, and says that the election rules are “unenforceable” if they conflict with a state law. 

That provision could have changed the outcome of a post-election lawsuit filed last year by the Arizona Republican Party that challenged how Maricopa County conducted the legally required limited recount in the days following the election. The county implemented voting centers in 2020, rather than voting precincts — and state law only contemplates recounts in precinct-level voting schemes, so the AZGOP argued that the county illegally performed its recount.

However, a judge tossed out the suit because the Election Procedures Manual directs counties that use voting centers, where any voter can cast a ballot, on how to conduct those required recounts. 

Lastly, the bill prevents photographs or videos from being taken within the 75-foot-limit of voters or their ballots but allows voters to “take photographs or videos of himself, that person’s own ballot or any election worker.”  

Gullota said allowing photography inside polling places, and specifically of poll workers, is a recipe for harassment. 

“That is why we don’t allow photographs in the polling place in general,” he said.

In Washington, one poll worker was followed after leaving a polling place and was almost run off the road, while another poll worker in Georgia was forced into hiding after being falsely accused of tampering with mail-in ballots.  

Secretary of State Katie Hobbs opposes the bill, a spokeswoman said.

If legislators are concerned about emergency voting, the best action to take is to simply extend Arizona’s early voting period through the Monday before Election Day,” said C. Murphy Hebert.

Bolick did not respond to a request for comment.

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Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Jerod MacDonald-Evoy

Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joins the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. Jerod has also won awards for his documentary films which have covered issues such as religious tolerance and surveillance technology used by police. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.

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