Over objections from voting rights groups, a Senate committee endorsed a bill Tuesday aimed at helping counties manage permanent early voter lists to reduce the number of provisional ballots cast. SB 1261, authored by Rep. Michele Reagan, R-Scottsdale, would allow counties to purge from the lists people who don’t vote in both the primary and general elections in a given year. Election officials would have to notify those voters by mail that their names will be removed if they don’t return a postcard saying that they wish to remain on the list. Reagan said that after last year’s elections officials in all 15 counties asked the Legislature to help them decrease the number of provisional ballots cast.
Karen Osborne, Maricopa County elections director, told the Senate Elections Committee that her office fielded thousands of complaints from people who didn’t know they were on the permanent early voting list and wound up casting provisional ballots. Osborne said that 60,000 people on the county’s permanent early voter list went to polling places in the general election.
“The other thing we have is thousands of people coming into the polls, and there were thousands, saying, ‘I did not ask for this ballot by mail, I didn’t want this ballot by mail, I don’t want to be on the mail list,’” Osborne said.
Barbara Klein, president of the League of Women Voters of Arizona, said the bill could unintentionally purge the names of people who want to remain early voters. She said missing a few elections isn’t grounds for removal.
“To voters who do not live and breathe voting, this could be difficult,” Klein said.