House Republicans have reintroduced a pair of bills that would make it nearly impossible for voter-outreach groups to collect and drop off early ballots as the state prepares for the 2016 election season. The proposals 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 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. Early ballot voting makes up 60 percent of all voting in the state, a Secretary of State spokesman said. Both Republicans and Democrats engage in early ballot collection efforts, though Democrats tend to collect more. There is no evidence that voter-outreach groups have ever tampered with or tossed early ballots.
But bill advocates, including Secretary of State Michele Reagan, say the measures ensure ballots are collected by the proper authorities.
“Live voted ballots that are outside of our chain of custody are a concern because it does provide an opportunity for unscrupulous behavior,” secretary of state spokesman Matt Roberts said.
The proposals by Reps. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, and Elections Chair Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, revive a key part of a major 2013 election law. Opponents collected more than 146,000 signatures to halt the 2013 law, but the Legislature instead voted to repeal it before an election could take place.