Defending Democracy in Arizona

The Republican party has been using a state-centered strategy to take and hold power for almost half a century. Attacking voting rights is a classic page out of the GOP playbook that they often employ when they start to lose power in a state. We saw it in North Carolina in 2016 and again this past December in Wisconsin and Michigan. And now we see similar moves happening in Arizona. Why?

Democrats won in Arizona by electing Kyrsten Sinema to the US Senate, Katie Hobbs as the Secretary of State, and flipping 4 state House seats (including electing an Indivisible leader, Jennifer Jermaine!) to narrow the Republican margin the statehouse to only 2 seats. Unfortunately, Democrats fell short of flipping the state legislature or governorship, leaving Republicans with trifecta control of the state government. But due to these statewide Democratic gains in Arizona, it wasn’t hard to anticipate that Republicans would come after voting in the Grand Canyon State.

Republicans in the state legislature have introduced a flurry of bills to undermine voting rights in Arizona. Their strategy is simple: if Arizona is starting to vote for Democrats, they will just make it harder to vote. It’s up to us to stop this blatant attack on democracy.

How are Republicans trying to undermine voting rights in Arizona?

Arizona saw a massive increase in early voting in the 2018 election, with early voting totals alone surpassing the entire voter turnout of the 2014 midterm election. With huge surges in Democratic early voting, Republicans are retaliating by trying to impose barriers on early voting. Like all attempts to suppress the vote, we know these voter suppression efforts would disproportionately impact communities of color.  Republican Michelle Ugenti-Rita (LD 23) has introduced four bills to make it harder to vote early: SB 1046, SB 1072, SB 1188 and SB 1090.

SB 1046: Early ballots cannot be returned in person

SB 1046 requires early voters to turn in their early ballots by mail only, preventing them from dropping off early ballots at polling locations on Election Day. Early voters who try to drop off their ballot would be forced to wait in line to cast a provisional ballot.

In 2018, about 320,000 voters returned their early ballots on Election Day. Forcing hundreds of thousands of voters to wait in line would increase wait times and unnecessarily increase the burden on both election day voters and early voters. Furthermore, adding hundreds of thousands of provisional ballots would add both time and cost to the ballot-counting process.

SB 1072: Require photo ID for early voting

SB 1072 would require a photo ID for in-person early voting. Currently, early voters must prove their identity with a signature, which is matched to the signatures on file. This bill would require in-person early voters to provide a photo ID (in addition to their signature, which they already have to do) to vote early. Since early voters would no longer just drop off their early ballot and would be required to stand in line and provide ID, this will lead to longer lines at the polls and place undue burden on all voters on Election Day.

SB 1188: Purge early voter lists

SB 1188 would remove voters from the permanent early voter list if they fail to vote in two primary or general elections. We saw a similar type of “use it or lose it” used in Georgia in 2018 to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters. Voters who are purged from the early voting list would wait for their ballot only to have it never arrive. Since Arizona does not allow registration on election day, these people would be locked out of voting.

SB 1090: Burdens for emergency voting

Currently, voters must inform elections officials 11 days in advance if they would like to vote early. Voters who realize they cannot vote on Election Day due to an emergency but miss this deadline are still allowed vote early by casting an emergency ballot. In 2018, almost 3,000 voters used emergency voting.

SB 1090 would require emergency voters to provide a photo ID and sign an affidavit under penalty of perjury that the emergency was unavoidable and that they would not be able to vote otherwise. Again, this places unnecessary barriers to voting that will both discourage emergency voting and increase wait times for those that utilize it. There is also potential that these affidavits, which would contain private information about voters, could be made public in a court of law during a contested election.

HCR 2005: Makes qualifying a ballot initiative more difficult

HCR 2005 would ask the voters to restrict Arizona’s initiative and referendum process by requiring ballot measures to collect signatures from a minimum percentage of voters in each of Arizona’s 30 legislative districts: 5% for referendums, 10% for initiatives, and 15% for a constitutional amendment. This would effectively give any single legislative district veto powers over the rest, allowing a small minority (the most conservative or liberal area in the state) to veto measures that have broad support. This is a direct attack on citizen-led initiatives in Arizona.

HB 2616: Crime to register voters as part of your job

HB 2616 would make it illegal for anyone to receive money or other compensation for registering people to vote. This would include not only some of Arizona's leading voter registration organizations, but DMV employees where voter registration takes place, people who work for the County Recorder, even librarians and health workers who register people to vote as a piece of their overall work in the community. It would even prohibit giving volunteers who register voters anything of value—lunch, gas, a bottle of water, etc.

Call Your Senator Now

Your constituent power can make a real impact! Call your state Senator and tell them that voting is a cornerstone of democracy and should be made as easy as possible in our state!

Call Now!

How do we defend democracy in Arizona?

While prospects can look bleak in a Republican-controlled state, there is hope of stopping these bills. Even though Democratic gains are the impetus for these Republican efforts, those same gains also have Republicans in the statehouse a little scared, presenting an opportunity for your constituent pressure to make a real impact.

State of play and how we win

SB 1072 has passed the Senate and is headed to the House, where it only needs one Republican to defect to kill it.

Several Republicans have come out publicly against SB 1046, which means it is (hopefully) dead!

SB 1090 and SB 1188 have passed policy committee in the Senate and HB 2616 and HCR 2005 have passed policy committee in the House. The next step for all of these bills in their respective houses is known as Committee of Whole (COW), where floor amendments could be made. The next stop after COW is a final floor vote, where the bills would need to pass with a majority before crossing over to the opposite House.

Republicans control the Senate 17-13, meaning we only need to peel off TWO  Republicans to kill these bills on the floor of the Senate.

Meanwhile, Republicans only control the House 31-29, meaning we only need ONE to defect to kill a bill in the House.

Call your Republican state representative and tell them to vote NO on these bills.

If your representative is a Republican, they need to hear from you! All Democrats have already committed to voting no on these bills, and they all share just a few office assistants, who will be overwhelmed and unable to do their job if we call them, so spare those calls to Democrats and thank them on Twitter instead.

Hello, my name is <YOUR NAME> and I am a constituent of Representative <NAME> from <YOUR TOWN>. I’m calling to express my concern about the voter suppression bills that are moving in the House. Voting is a cornerstone of our functioning democracy and should be made as easy as possible in our state!

Can I count on Representative <NAME> to vote NO on HB 2616, HB 2489, and HCR 2005 when they come to the House floor?

Be prepared for a rapid response!

If we pressure Republicans enough, we can prevent these bills from ever making it to the floor because they rarely schedule a floor vote if they don’t have the votes to pass the bill. We did it once already and we have to be ready to do it again!

But if these bills do hit the floor, be prepared to respond rapidly by showing up at the Arizona capitol to flood the gallery and show legislators that we’re watching!