A trio of racially diverse state senators on Monday condemned elections-related bills that they say discriminate against minorities and called on the U.S. Department of Justice to monitor the legislation. Of particular concern to the senators are Senate Bill 1003, which would limit who can return a voter’s ballot, and SB 1261, which would drop people from the early voting list if they failed to mail in their ballots and instead voted at the polls. Both passed the Senate last week. “It would truly throw up obstacles to the early-vote process,” Senate Minority Leader Leah Landrum Taylor said of SB 1261. She is African-American. She was joined by Sens. Jack Jackson Jr., a Navajo, and Steve Gallardo, who is Latino. All three are Democrats, and all three said the bills would have a “devastating” impact on minority voting.
Gallardo said the legislation is a great example of why Arizona still needs to be under the protection of the federal Voting Rights Act, which was passed to protect minority voting rights and just last week was the topic of a U.S. Supreme Court case.
“The potential effect of these bills is alarming, and the genesis of these bills is equally concerning,” the senators wrote.
None of the groups that have worked to increase minority voting was invited to the meetings where the bill language was crafted, Gallardo said. Although the bills have the backing of the state’s 15 county elections officials, Gallardo said, those officials need to look outside their offices and consider the effect on voters.
Sen. Michele Reagan, R-Scottsdale, introduced the bills and made changes in response to concerns raised at public hearings last month. SB 1003 originally said only an immediate family member or roommate could drop a person’s ballot at the polls, but she changed it to allow the voter to designate someone to do so, requiring signed statements from both the voter and the person delivering the ballot.