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Arizona Gov. Ducey signs bill to purge some from early voter list

(KTAR News Photo/Kevin Stone)

PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill Tuesday that will purge Arizonans from the early voter list who don’t vote early over the course of two consecutive election cycles.

Senate Bill 1485 will remove voters who don’t return at least one early ballot over the course of two consecutive primary and general elections, or a total of four years.

About 75% of Arizona voters are on the list.

“Arizona is a national leader when it comes to election integrity and access to the ballot box and Senate Bill 1485 continues that legacy,” Ducey said in a press release. “In 1992, our state began offering the ability for Arizonans to vote an absentee ballot.

“Since then, Arizona has 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.”

Eligible voters will receive a postcard asking if they still want to receive an early ballot.

County recorders can also reach voters by phone, text and email to elicit a response.

Voters will removed from the list, which is being renamed from the permanent early voting list to the active early voting list, after 90 days if there’s no response.

Democrats argue the bill would disenfranchise voters who expect to get a ballot that never arrives, with an especially strong impact on people of color.

Arizona Senate Democrats believe more than 120,000 voters will get removed from the list as a result of the bill.

“The priorities of this legislature are wrong and misguided and SB1485 is one of its most shameful examples,” Senate Democrats said in a statement. “We have one of the country’s best and robust vote by mail systems and yet the legislature is actively creating unnecessary hurdles for people to vote.

“These voter suppression bills are part of a broader, coordinated attack on voting rights and democratic norms.”

The bill was sponsored by Republican Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita.

It passed 16-14 on party lines.

There’s some ambiguity about when the bill that Ducey signed Tuesday would first affect elections. It was widely believed to apply to voters who skipped the 2018 and 2020 elections, but legislative lawyers said courts would most likely say voters can’t be purged unless they sit out 2022 and 2024.

“I am thankful to the governor and my colleagues for sticking to the facts of my legislation and ignoring the unfounded and inflammatory rhetoric of suppression to recognize the importance of maintaining an accurate voter list to protect the integrity of our elections by reducing the potential for fraud,” Ugenti-Rita.

“Standing with the voters and their desire for secure elections is paramount to maintaining our form of government. This bill is a modest, but critical step toward restoring confidence in our election system.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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