A bill that removes inactive voters from the state’s early ballot mailing list could affect hundreds of thousands of Arizonans, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
Voters who sign up for the Permanent Early Voting List, or PEVL, can now expect to receive an early ballot, regardless of whether they choose to participate in any given election.
SB1188 would remove voters from PEVL if they don’t use their early ballot – either by mailing it back or dropping it off an a polling place or election center – in at least one of two consecutive primary and general elections. The sponsor, Republican Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita of Scottsdale, amended the bill to clarify that the participation requirement only applies in elections with federal, statewide or legislative races on the ballot.
Had the bill been in effect for the past two election cycles, roughly 200,000 voters would be removed from PEVL, according to an estimate from Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. That’s the number of registered voters who failed to cast an early ballot in any of the primary or general elections in 2016 or 2018.
Even if a PEVL voter participates by voting the traditional method – at a polling place before or on election day – they’d still be at risk of being booted from the mailing list because they didn’t vote using their early ballot.
Democrats have argued against the measure, which bears similarities to efforts in other states to purge voters from registration rolls. Democrats argued in the Senate Judiciary Committee that Ugenti-Rita’s effort undercuts the point of PEVL – it’s got the word “permanent” in its name, after all – and could sow confusion among voters who sign up for an early ballot and expect to receive one each election, no matter what.
Ugenti-Rita has argued that, unlike efforts in Ohio and other states, no one in Arizona will be unregistered to vote. They simply won’t receive a ballot by mail anymore.
Amendments to the bill authorize county election officials to notify a voter that they’re being removed from PEVL, and alert them to ways to sign up for the mailing list again.
SB1188 narrowly passed the Senate on March 7 by a nearly party line vote. All the chamber’s 13 Democrats voted against the bill, while all but one Republican, Sen. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, voted for it.
The bill now awaits a hearing in the House Elections Committee.
A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, voted against the measure.