Gov. Jan Brewer penned her approval Wednesday to a series of changes in voting laws that Democrats and others say are designed to give her Republican Party an edge in future elections. The legislation, which will take effect later this year, sets up a procedure to stop sending early ballots to voters who have not used them in two election cycles. Rep. Martin Quezada, D-Phoenix, said the people this is most likely to affect are voters who are newly signed up through registration drives, voters who, at least initially, may be less in the habit of voting. And those voters, he said, are most likely Democrats. That contention is disputed by Sen. Michele Regan, R-Scottsdale. She said the highest number of people who have ignored their early ballots — and would be subject to no longer getting them in the mail — are in her Scottsdale legislative district. But Reagan conceded the reason for this could be the high number of home foreclosures in the district, with ballots mailed to people who are no longer there.
The new law also makes it a crime for members of those very groups who do the voter registration drives to pick up someone’s early ballot and take it to the polls for them.
Reagan said letting strangers handle ballots, even in sealed envelopes, is an invitation for fraud. And she pointed out that the law still allows voters to give their ballots to relatives or friends. Quezada, however, said it undermines the work of community groups who are trying to get out the vote.
The measure also contains language designed to make it easier for foes of voter-proposed laws to block them from appearing on the ballot.
Under current law, initiative petitions need be only in “substantial compliance” with the law. That means innocent mistakes that do not materially affect an initiative can be overlooked. This law says there must be “strict compliance,” allowing those who do not want what initiative organizers have proposed to knock the measures off the ballot even before voters get a chance to weigh in.