State Watch

Arizona governor signs controversial election bill into law

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) on Tuesday signed into law a controversial bill that would remove some people from the state’s permanent early voter list.

Ducey touted the new law as a victory for “election integrity” and cast it as part of Arizona’s efforts to “continuously” refine its voter system.

“Arizona has for years continuously improved and refined our election laws ⁠— including intuitively renaming ‘absentee’ voting to ‘early’ voting ⁠— and constantly seeking to strengthen the security and integrity of our elections,” Ducey said in a tweet sharing a video of the bill’s signing.

“S.B 1485 ensures Arizona remains a leader for inclusive, accessible, efficient and secure election administration,” he added.

Ducey’s announcement came just minutes after the state Senate passed Senate Bill 1485 by a 16-14 margin strictly along party lines.

The legislation would remove a voter from the list if the person fails to vote in primary and general elections for two consecutive election cycles. That voter would receive a notification from their county before they are removed, which they could sign and return in order to remain on the list.

“Voting by mail is a big part of the election process in Arizona,” said state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R), the bill’s sponsor. “The people on the list are opting-in to use this option. It needs to be regularly updated to make sure the people who are on the list to receive a ballot are voters who are taking advantage of the vote-by-mail option.” 

Republicans have maintained the legislation would serve as a backstop to ensure the accuracy of the list, but Democrats have accused the GOP of trying to cut down on the most popular means of voting in the state after President Biden and Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) won statewide last year.

Democrats came out swinging against the legislation Tuesday, with lawmakers saying there are no issues with the permanent early voter list as it stands now and likening it to a potential “purge” of more than 100,000 voters.

“Today we saw Arizona Republicans once again take a hammer to the institution of Democracy by passing a bill that will purge over 120,000 eligible Arizona voters from the Permanent Early Voting List,” the Arizona Senate Democrats said in a statement. “The true intent of this bill is undeniable and that is to suppress the votes of low-income, Black, Latino, and Native American voters.”

“Arizona Republicans are scared that their state will turn into the next Virginia as more and more voters turn out to vote for Democrats,” added Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee President Jessica Post, referencing Virginia’s transformation from a conservative bastion to a blue state. “But instead of winning the majority of voters with policy platforms, they’d rather limit who can vote to keep themselves in office.

The passage of the legislation marks a victory for Senate Republicans, who were unable to send the bill to Ducey’s desk in late April after state Sen. Kelly Townsend (R) said the chamber should wait for the outcome of an audit in Maricopa County before voting on the measure. 

Townsend reversed her stance Tuesday, even though the audit is still incomplete. 

The debate over the Senate bill comes as Republicans in the chamber push an election audit of votes cast in Maricopa County in November. The county — Arizona’s largest — went for Biden last year, helping deliver him the state’s 11 electoral votes. 

Multiple audits since November determined that the vote was tallied accurately in Maricopa County and across the state, and no evidence has emerged to prove otherwise. The audit is widely viewed as a political exercise to placate supporters of former President Trump who believe the November race was fraudulent.

Tags Arizona Donald Trump Doug Ducey Joe Biden Mark Kelly Republican efforts to restrict voting following the 2020 presidential election Voter suppression

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