It didn’t capture as much media attention as distracted driving or the state budget, but the collective actions of the Legislature and Gov. Doug Ducey on election laws during the recently completed session is evidence that Arizona is in the political crosshairs entering the 2020 campaign season.
State Republicans sought to tighten ballot laws while Democrats waged war to reduce restrictions and make voting easier.
Arizona is one of several states where this is happening. Florida adopted a citizen initiative last November that will restore ballot rights to as many as 1.5 former felons. New Hampshire’s Democrat-dominated Legislature adopted a bill to allow college students from out of state to vote in local elections. Tennessee has a court battle waging to overturn new laws restricting voter registration and voting rights activists in Texas played a role in the resignation of the acting secretary of state when they sued to stop a bill to impose criminal penalties for voter registration mistakes.
Arizona Republicans were focused on fraud during the past session, not on tightening the rules for those who are eligible to vote. GOP lawmakers allocated $530,000 to create a special unit under the Attorney General to investigate complaints of illegal ballots. The Republican majority also adopted a law to expand voter ID requirements, again with the intent of eliminating fraud and boosting the perception of election integrity.
It’s not fair to say these GOP initiatives – at least in Arizona – are aimed at reducing the number of people eligible to vote. In recent years this state has made it easier to participate in the process by approving online voter registration and expanding the number of voters who cast ballots early. Today, roughly four out of five voters cast their ballots by mail, and the state offers no-excuse early voting for 26 days before elections. Even after the early voting period ends on the Friday before Election Day, residents who are unable to get to the polls on Election Day can cast what are called “emergency ballots” on the weekend before the election.
We like what Arizona lawmakers accomplished during the last session, distinguishing the state with an emphasis on attacking voter fraud and empowering the perception of integrity in the election process.