Maricopa County officials said that about 20,000 registered voters would be removed from the permanent early-voting list under proposed legislation aimed at reducing the number of provisional ballots. No particular demographic group would be hit harder than another, according to an analysis by the Maricopa County Elections Department. Sen. Michele Reagan, R-Scottsdale, developed SB 1261 with input from county election officials. As approved by the Senate, it would remove people from permanent early- voting lists if they fail to vote in four consecutive federal elections and fail to respond to notice from the county elections office. “No other other state that I found who has a permanent early voting list has no ability to clean up their list,” Reagan said.
The bill, which hadn’t received a vote by the full House as of early May, is a response to the November 2012 general election that saw Arizonans cast more than 180,000 provisional ballots, a record. The state drew national attention for its high provisional rate and the perceived delays in counting all the ballots.
More than half of Maricopa County’s 122,000 provisional ballots were cast by voters who were on the permanent early-voting list but wound up at polls anyway, according to county election officials. Many of those voters, they said, reported not knowing they were supposed to cast early ballots or not receiving ballots.
The bill has been described as discriminatory by some Democrats and civil rights groups, who have asked the U.S. Department of Justice to evaluate it if it passes.