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?

Burdens to early voting and voter registration

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.

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

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.

Status: SB 1072 passed through the Senate and House and was signed by the Governor into law.

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.

Status: SB 1188 just barely passed the Senate in a sudden unplanned vote. Heather Carter was the only Republican who voted against this bill. The bill passed the House Elections Committee on Tuesday, March 25th and could head to the House floor at any time. We’ve heard that our calls are the only thing stopping this bill from moving so let’s keep it up!

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.

Status: SB 1090 has passed through the Senate and the House and now awaits a signature from the Governor.

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

HB 2616 would require groups and individuals to postmark VR completed forms within 10 days (or by any upcoming voter registration deadline). Missing the deadline would mean a fine of $25 per day or, if you did it “knowingly,” a class 2 misdemeanor. This hard deadline would apply to large-scale paid registration drives and individual volunteers alike, and could chill volunteer registration activity by teachers, students, church or civic organization members, and others. We should not be criminalizing people who are trying to get their community civically engaged!

Status: HB 2616 passed through the House Elections Committee and originally failed on the House floor 32-18! But the author made a motion to reconsider and it passed. Despite Representative Udall declaring she had major problems with the bill, she still voted to pass it. The bill now heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, March 28th.

Undermining citizen-led ballot initiatives

HCR 2005 / SCR 1023: Makes qualifying a ballot initiative more difficult

HCR 2005 and SCR 1023 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.

Status: SCR 1023 and HCR 2005 passed through their respective chamber’s Elections committees and are awaiting the next step known as Committee of Whole (COW), where floor amendments could be made. SCR 1023 was scheduled but was pulled off the agenda after an influx of grassroots calls!

SB 1451: Excessive burdens on volunteers collecting ballot initiative signatures

SB 1451 is yet another power grab from politicians who are scared of voter’s power. This bill would require petitions to be identified and submitted by each signature collector, adding unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles to the already intensive process of gathering signatures to qualify an initiative. This is an attempt to once again weaken voters’ right to put ballot measures to a vote of their fellow citizens. 

Status: SB 1451 passed the Senate and House Elections Committee and is awaiting a House floor vote.

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

Republicans are trying to overwhelm us by moving so many anti-democratic bills at once. But victory is possible.

Republicans control the Senate 17-13, meaning we only need to peel off TWO Republicans to kill any of 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.

We can do this if we keep fighting!

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!