Bill to purge Arizona permanent early voting list revived

A line forms outside of the State Farm Arena for early voting on Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

The Arizona Senate has revived a stalled bill that would purge about 200,000 people from a list of voters who automatically get mail ballots.

The measure is among dozens of election bills that Republicans have introduced this year to put new limits on how ballots can be cast, many targeting the increasingly popular vote-by-mail system. The measures come in the wake of victories in Arizona by President Joe Biden and Sen. Mark Kelly, both Democrats.

A Senate committee on Tuesday brought back to life the proposal to purge the permanent early voting list. The measure died on the Senate floor last week when Republican Sen. Paul Boyer joined all 14 Democrats in opposition, holding it short of a majority.

Boyer said Wednesday his concerns have been addressed.

The measure has drawn harsh criticism from voting rights advocates, who describe it as a voter-suppression tactic by Republicans after Democratic President Joe Biden narrowly won Arizona last year.

The measure would remove the word “permanent” from the popular “permanent early voting list” and require people to vote at least once in every two election cycles to stay on the list.

Boyer was said he was concerned that people would be dropped from the list for missing just one primary or general election. But legislative lawyers assured him that voters would need to miss both the primary and the general for two consecutive cycles to be removed.

State election officials have said about 200,000 voters currently meet that criteria. If the bill passes, they would get a letter asking them whether they want to remain on the permanent early voting list and would be removed if they don’t respond.

On Wednesday, the Senate Appropriations Committee advanced a bill that would prohibit election officials from counting mail ballots postmarked after the Thursday before an election. It also would change the date ballots are mailed from 27 days before an election to 22 days.

Another bill would require voters casting mail ballots to include in the ballot envelopes an affidavit with their birthdate and proof of their identity. That measure was approved in a committee this month but has not yet received a vote in the full Senate.

Proposals in both the House and the Senate to give lawmakers — not voters — the final say in selecting Arizona’s representatives in the Electoral College have been introduced without receiving committee votes.

The House and Senate approved several other election bills over steep opposition from voting rights advocates. The Senate voted to give certain lawmakers — instead of the governor — veto power over the election procedures manual, a state document that outlines in minute detail how elections should be carried out. The document is currently written by the secretary of state and approved by the governor and attorney general.

Sen. Martin Quezada, a Glendale Democrat, said that would introduce unnecessary partisanship. The bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita of Scottsdale, said it would give the public more involvement.

Republished with the permission of the Associated Press.