Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs signs bill to avert potential 2024 election debacle

Feb 9, 2024, 3:30 PM

A Maricopa County election worker helps process early ballots after the 2022 election....

A Maricopa County election worker helps process early ballots after the 2022 general election. (File Photo by Joshua Lott/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

(File Photo by Joshua Lott/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs signed a bill with last-minute fixes to the state’s election calendar on Friday, thwarting a potential presidential election year disaster.

“I’m proud to sign our bipartisan deal to keep our elections free and fair,” Hobbs said. “With this bill, we’re making sure Arizonans will have their voices heard at the ballot box.”

House Bill 2785 makes multiple adjustments to the election timeline, most notably moving the 2024 primary up a week from Aug. 6 to July 30.

Why did Arizona election calendar have to be changed?

County recorders started warning state lawmakers in September 2023 that changes were necessary to address potential problems stemming from new automatic recount thresholds.

A law signed by former Gov. Doug Ducey in 2022 requires recounts for races where the margin is 0.5% or less. The previous recount trigger was 0.1%.

The larger threshold is expected to prompt more recounts than in the past. For example, Arizona’s 2020 presidential race, when Democrat Joe Biden defeated Republican Donald Trump by about 10,000 votes, would have gone to an automatic recount if the new threshold was in effect.

It was feared the the time needed the complete the recounts would cause state officials to miss federally mandated deadlines for mailing ballots to military members before the 2024 general election and for the certification of the Arizona’s presidential electors afterward.

Bill passed with strong bipartisan support

The state Senate and House, both controlled by Republicans, passed the legislation with overwhelming bipartisan support Thursday, a day before county officials warned it would be too late to implement the necessary changes in time for the 2024 election cycle.

“This legislation is a major win for Arizona voters and important in restoring voter confidence in election integrity,” Senate Elections Committee Chair Wendy Rogers said in a Republican caucus press release Thursday. “After months of painstaking discussions among lawmakers, election experts, administrators, county officials and the executive branch, I’m proud we were able to craft a commonsense solution that all 15 Arizona counties support.”

The House vote was 56-2, and the Senate vote 24-2, margins large enough pass the bill with an emergency clause, allowing county recorders to implement the changes immediately.

“Our goal was a clean fix, and this bill comes very close,” House Democratic Leader Lupe Contreras said in a statement. “It’s not perfect, but it is a true bipartisan compromise that will protect voters and help keep our elections free, fair and secure.”

What does new Arizona election legislation do?

The bill gives county officials an extra 19 days in the primary calendar and an extra 17 days in the general election calendar. It also codifies statewide signature verification standards for the first time and shortens time to cure missing or non-matching early ballot signatures.

There are also changes that don’t start until 2026. For example, early voters will have the option of bringing their ballots to the polls on Election Day and scanning them onsite after showing identification. That is designed to reduce the post-Election Day signature verification workload and speed up the tabulation process.

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Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs signs bill to avert potential 2024 election debacle