March 26, 2023

Early voting list reform inches closer to Ducey’s desk

Legislation supporters say will clean up Arizona’s voter rolls is one step away from Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk, but opponents are calling it voter suppression.

Residents eligible to vote in Arizona may sign up for the Permanent Early Voter List (PEVL) at a state facility after presenting identification or online if they have a state driver’s license or ID number. Once approved, the voter will receive a ballot by mail for every election they’re eligible to vote in. The system was first approved in 2007. Voters are removed if they do so voluntarily or if a notice to their address is returned as undeliverable.

Senate Bill 1485 would require county elections officials to send a voter on the list who missed a local, primary or general election over two electoral cycles a postcard asking whether they want to remain on the list. The voter, who also would be called and emailed, would have 90 days to respond before officials remove them. 

Democrats estimate that the change could lead to more than 100,000 voters being removed from the list.

House debate Tuesday became tense. After Democrats left the chamber for nearly three hours, lawmakers took jabs across the aisle on the matter, spending hours frustrating each other with parliamentary objections that would interrupt speakers. 

Democrats labeled the measure as a racist attempt to stifle Democratic voters, making references to Jim Crow laws. 

“The effect of this bill will make it harder for independent voters, seniors, Native Americans, Black, brown, and low-income people to vote,” said House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen.

Republicans took objections with Democratic language, invoking parliamentary rules that keep members from impugning others. 

“Please, don’t sit here and tell us that this bill is somehow disenfranchising voters because I will remind you that the definition of disenfranchising voters is to deprive someone of the right to vote, which this bill does not do,” said Rep. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek. 

One exchange got the attention of NBA star LeBron James, who tweeted about the debate and expressed support for Democrats.

Other Republicans shared stories of neighbors getting ballots from former residents who were on the PEVL.

“This bill is about security and the security of the vote,” said Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills. “I have moved several times and have never contacted my recorder to say, ‘Hey, I’ve moved. Take me off the list.’ ”

The measure succeeded and was sent back to the Senate to approve of changes. If senators approve of the House Amendment, it will be sent to Ducey for consideration.

This article was originally posted on Early voting list reform inches closer to Ducey’s desk

Sydney Boles