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Bill modifying early ballot collection dies in House

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A measure limiting who can collect early ballots quietly died in the House on Friday morning, even as lawmakers explained their votes.

Democratic representatives led a spirited rally against the measure beginning at nearly 1 a.m. on the final day of the Legislature, while the Senate simultaneously adjourned preventing any other bills from passing both chambers.

Senate Bill 1339 by Sen. Don Shooter, R-Yuma was designed to makes it a Class 6 felony for anyone but a family member, caregiver or candidate to collect more than two early ballots from voters during a two-year election cycle.

The proposal echoed a provision from a sweeping election law the Legislature repealed in 2014 after opponents collected more than 146,000 signatures in a move to put the measures before voters.

Rep. Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley, led the charge Friday morning, saying that Republicans have no evidence of voter fraud to support the need for the bill.

“We have no examples of fraud in our state and we are making it a felony charge for people to carry someone else’s ballot to engage voters in the election process,” Meyer said.

Shooter previously said in debate the bill stemmed from a case in Yuma County, where someone dropped off about 5,000 early ballot requests minutes before the deadline and about 2,000 were found to be invalid.

“This bill at least tells us where to look if there is fraud,” he said.

Rep. Bruce Wheeler, D-Tucson, said the Legislature should not make it a felony to help people vote. He also asked why it was acceptable for candidates to collect ballots but not volunteers.

“We ought to be encouraging voting in this country and not find ways to suppress voting,” he said.

Rep. Rebecca Rios, D-Phoenix, nearing wit’s end, violated protocol by calling out Republicans for what she said was a blatant act of voter suppression.

“It is my opinion that this bill does nothing more than to suppress the Democratic vote,” She said.

Republican Rep. John Ackerley, R-Sahuarita, said the bill prevents large-scale collection of ballots.

“I understand the idea of engaging voters, but there is nothing in this bill that says we can’t engage voters. You are still going to knock on their door,” he said. “The only thing it does is curtail collection.”

At 1:20 a.m., while Rep. Stefanie Mach, D-Tucson, explained her vote, House Speaker David Gowan interrupted to tell the floor that the Senate had adjourned for the session and that all remaining bills that still had to pass through the Senate would be rejected.

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