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Backers of elections bill create committee to head off challenge

Sen. Michele Reagan

Sen. Michele Reagan (File photo)

Supporters of a controversial elections bill formed a campaign committee to combat a referendum drive aimed at putting it on the 2014 ballot.

Protect Our Secret Ballot was filed with the Secretary of State’s Office on Monday to defend HB2305. Sen. Michele Reagan, who sponsored several bills that were later included in the omnibus elections, is the group’s chair.

Reagan, R-Scottsdale, said the committee may launch legal challenges against the referendum effort, campaign in favor of HB2305 if it gets onto the ballot or undertake other activities to defend the recently passed law. Reagan said the group already has funding lined up.

“We’re prepared to do what we think needs to be done,” Reagan said. “I’m leaving all options open.”

HB2305 includes several provisions that Reagan and other supporters say will protect the integrity of elections, make it easier for elections officials to count ballots and prevent voter fraud. The bill bars political organizations from collecting voters’ early ballots; makes it easier for elections officials to remove people from the Permanent Early Voting List if they don’t actually use their early ballots; imposes stricter standards and initiatives and recalls; and dramatically raises signature requirements for third-party candidates to get on the ballot.

The Protect Your Right to Vote Committee formed at the beginning of July and began a referendum drive to block HB2305, which organizers say will suppress Latino turnout and protect Republicans. The committee must collect 86,405 valid signatures by Sept. 12 to put the law on hold and refer it to the November 2014 ballot.

Reagan said the current system, in which individuals and groups can collect hundreds or thousands of early ballots without any oversight, invites fraud.

“Why are we the only state … in the country that doesn’t have these laws in place?” she said. “When we go ahead and pass a law like this … and groups freak out, why are they so opposed when, again, it’s in every other state?”

Despite the name of Reagan’s committee, HB2305 does not affect laws regarding secret ballots. But Reagan said she didn’t think the name was misleading.

Reagan said the group chose the name because voting is a private matter to most people, and it wants to ensure that people don’t feel pressured to turn over their ballots to people who may open them, tamper with them or not turn them in depending on which candidates they voted for. She said she’s heard such allegations, but is unsure whether such things have happened.

“I’m not saying that that happened. But I’m saying when you have a system where you have no control on thousands of ballots, you’re leaving yourself open to all kinds of shenanigans,” Reagan said.

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