A House committee has passed a measure that would block voter-outreach groups from collecting and dropping off early ballots as the state prepares for the 2016 election season. The proposal would make it a felony for anyone but a family member, roommate, caregiver, postal worker or candidate to collect early ballots from another person in an act sometimes called “ballot harvesting.” The House Elections Committee chaired by Ugenti-Rita passed the measure along party lines in a 4-2 vote Monday. The outcome of the legislation could impact the state’s general and primary elections if the bill is signed into law and enacted before elections take place.
Advocates including Secretary of State Michelle Reagan say the measure is necessary to keep up with modern voting trends in a state that increasingly relies on early ballot voting, which makes up about 60 percent of all voting in the state. “The law has not kept pace with how Arizona’s voting patterns have evolved in the last 20 years,” said State Elections Director Eric Spencer during the committee hearing Monday. “This bill restores the balance and makes it a little more difficult to cheat.”
The Secretary of State’s Office has no evidence of voter-outreach groups tampering with or tossing early ballots. Both Republicans and Democrats engage in early ballot collection efforts, though Democrats tend to collect more.
Democrats opposed the measure saying the bill attempts to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. Rep. Jonathan Larkin, D-Glendale, called it a “voter suppression bill.”