Arizona House GOP advances election bills aimed at tightening security

Feb 25, 2021, 6:00 PM | Updated: 10:28 pm
Election workers sort ballots Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020, at the Maricopa County Recorder's Office in...
Election workers sort ballots Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020, at the Maricopa County Recorder's Office in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
(AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX (AP) — Republicans who control the Arizona House advanced a series of election-related proposals Thursday that they contend are needed to tighten the state’s election security. But Democrats call them part of an ongoing voter suppression effort by GOP lawmakers.

The House approved measures making same-day voter registration a felony offense, requiring people to specifically ask to register to vote, mandating notices on mailed early ballots telling recipients to “return to sender” if the person no longer lives there and boosting limits on the required disclosure of campaign contributions.

Another measure makes it a felony for an election official to send mail ballots to people who hadn’t requested them — a move prompted by a failed proposal last year by Maricopa County’s former recorder to mail all voters ballots during the pandemic.

The measures brought fierce opposition from Democrats, who said they add to a slew of GOP proposals that were prompted by former President Donald Trump’s loss in Arizona.

House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding said prohibiting state agencies from registering people to vote without them seeking it out is part of GOP efforts to make it harder for people to participate in elections.

“And once they are on the rolls, there are attempts to kick them off,” Bolding said. “And we are seeing those policies here at the Legislature in this cycle, not only in the House but in the Senate as well.”

Republicans defended the efforts as necessary to prevent fraud or abuse of the election process.

The ban on sending all voters ballots, sponsored by GOP Rep. Jake Hoffman, prevents county recorders from going “rogue,” a move he said could “compromise the integrity of our entire state election.”

Rep. John Kavanagh said his proposal to raise from $50 to $200 the amount that triggers being named in a campaign report is needed because contributors are being harassed by those opposed to candidates or measures they dislike, who often even call their employers.

“Campaign contributions are a First Amendment form of free speech,” Kavanagh said, “And giving people the information to dox and harass and threaten their livelihood is a suppression of free speech.”

Democrats noted that most lobbyists’s contributions are below $200, and Bolding called the proposal flat wrong. “The public has the right and should have the right to know what individuals are influencing candidates in their campaigns,” he said.

The House advanced the measures after debates, but they still need formal votes before heading to the Senate for action. There are many other election-related measures awaiting House action.

The Senate, for its part, is advancing its own measures tightening election laws. Those include a measure that would purge about 200,000 people from a list of voters who automatically get mail ballots, and one that would shrink the mail-voting period.

Proposals in both the House and the Senate to give lawmakers — not voters — the final say in selecting Arizona’s representatives in the Electoral College have been introduced without receiving committee votes.

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Arizona House GOP advances election bills aimed at tightening security