Efforts by Arizona Republican lawmakers to overhaul the early voting process and fight election fraud have drawn criticism from Democrats and civic groups who fear the proposed changes would limit turnout among the state’s growing Hispanic electorate. At least seven bills in the Senate and House this year seek to adjust the early voting process. One measure would remove voters from the permanent early-voting list if they don’t vote by mail and fail to respond to a notice. Another measure would prohibit groups from collecting early ballots from voters for delivery to county election officials. Another measure seeks notarized signatures for early voters. Republican legislators argue that they must rework Arizona’s early voting process to combat unlawful votes and reduce confusion at the polls.
Sen. Michele Reagan, R-Scottsdale, is behind several of the measures, including legislation that would make it a felony for anyone other than a relative who lives with the voter to deliver an early ballot for them.
“We have a chain of custody in place for ballots once they go to the polling center. They’re treated like they’re sacred,” Reagan said last week in defense of the bill. “But yet we’re just going to allow people to go collect laundry baskets full of ballots and drop them off?”
Many of the measures have moved forward despite protest from Democratic and Hispanic lawmakers who claim the changes seek to disenfranchise Hispanic and low-income voters who tend to vote Democratic. Republicans slightly outnumber Democratic and independent voters in Arizona. Most Latino voters in Arizona backed President Barack Obama in 2012, according to exit polls.
“It’s about shutting it down — How can they slow down the number of Latinos who are voting early?” state Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, said.
Barbara Klein, president of the League of Women Voters of Arizona, said she is particularly concerned about the measure seeking to trim the early-voting list because it would apply to voters who did not vote an early ballot as far back as in the 2010 primary and general elections, potentially erasing any gains in Latino voter turnout in recent years.