Nearly a quarter million Arizonans who dropped off their early ballots at polling places on Election Day in November would lose that ability in future years under a bill that passed its first legislative hurdle in a Senate committee on Thursday. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed three election-related bills sponsored by Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale. One of those bills, Senate Bill 1046, would require voters who receive early ballots in the mail to return them only by mail, rather than bringing them to polling places before or on Election Day. People who don’t mail in their ballots would be able to vote at a polling place, but would have to wait in line and go through the same process as other in-person voters. The committee passed SB1046 on a 4-3 party-line vote, with Republicans supporting it and Democrats in opposition.
Under the current system, early ballots that are dropped off on Election Day are among the last to be counted, which can be a lengthy process as election officials verify voters’ signatures on their early ballot envelopes. After the November election, it took county election officials nearly two weeks to count the votes, during which time Democrats took the lead in several high-profile statewide races in which they’d trailed at the end of Election Day.
Ugenti-Rita said SB1046 will provide more timely results, eliminate confusion about early voting and reinforce that Arizona’s vote-by-mail system is, in fact, conducted through the mail as intended.