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House passes bill to put more restrictions on voter registration

The "I voted sticker" is commonly given to voters across the U.S. after they cast their ballots. (Wikimedia Commons).

(Wikimedia Commons).

The state House voted Monday to create some new crimes for certain voter-registration activities in a move several lawmakers suggested will suppress voting, particularly by the young and minorities.

HB 2616 would make it a misdemeanor to pay someone based on the number of people they sign up to vote. Violators would be subject to six months in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, said the measure is designed to deal with problems presented to her by some county recorders who say they are finding large numbers of fraudulent registrations.

“We have people going in the phone book and filling out voter registrations with names in the phone book,” she said. “We’ve got people who are making up names.”

But the part of the measure that caused more concern would require that filled-out voter registration forms must be sent in within 10 days or there is a four-month jail term.

Rep. Kirsten Engel, D-Tucson, said that she, as a candidate, always has carried around such forms when going door-to-door in case she would come across someone who wanted to register. Engel said she would send them in when she had a small pile.

“All of a sudden now, you don’t send them in within 10 days, you’re subject to a criminal infraction,” she said.

Rep. Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, said all that will chill efforts, often by volunteers, to get people signed up.

He noted this is not the only House-passed measure aimed at voting, citing another bill which requires people who drop off their early ballots at voting centers to provide identification, something not now in law. Foes of that measure say some people don’t have the kind of ID the legislation would require.

“It’s clear to me that the real driving force behind these bills is to keep down the number of votes, especially from those who are young, those who are old, those who are poor and those who are minority voters,” Bolding said.

That drew an objection from Townsend who said House rules prohibit members from commenting on what they believe are each other’s motives. Bolding, however, refused to back down, even suggesting that there are lawmakers who want to keep turnout low, especially among some groups.

“What we know is that when more people go to the ballot, when we see more individuals voting, you’ll see effects just like you saw in 2018,” he said, with less support for certain types of politicians.

“Republicans know, just like Democrats know, that the more people who vote the less likely we will see an extreme Legislature that is forcing policies that don’t reflect the state of Arizona,” Bolding said. And he suggested that last year’s election, where Democrats picked up four seats in the House — reducing the GOP edge to 31-29 — has worried some on the other side of the aisle.

“I do not think it’s a mistake that we consistently see voter suppression bills this cycle,” Bolding said.

Townsend, however, argued that her legislation actually helps enfranchise voters.

“I cannot believe that we are arguing that we should be able to look the other way when someone commits fraud, when someone purposely keeps back voter registration, for whatever reason, in a nefarious way,” she said. Townsend said this is designed to protect those who thought they had registered “and instead their registration form is sitting on someone’s desk for some purpose I don’t understand, sometimes until after the election.”

But Bolding said if Republicans were truly interested in ensuring that everyone who wants to vote gets to vote they would support automatic voter registration. That system, in effect in some states, signs people up to vote when they get a driver’s license and provide proof of citizenship.

While all the Republicans voted in favor of the measure, Rep. Michelle Udall, R-Mesa, said she was uncomfortable with at least some of the language, particularly in how that 10-day limit is applied. She said there could be circumstances where a volunteer turns in a slip in plenty of time to an organization but that group fails to get the form off within 10 days of when it originally was filled out.

The measure now goes to the Senate.

 

4 comments

  1. Why is there a 10 day closure period to send these voter forms in anyway? If the forms are filled out before the final registration day, what’s the argument??
    The whisper is “Voter Suppression”. After the recent election where people are finally seeing the effects of NOT voting, citizens decided to get involved. Getting involved means at the least declaring their feelings through voting. Past reforms have only sought to suppress the vote. Real reforms are needed to increase the number of eligible voters.

  2. bradley taylor hudson

    Can Ms Townsend provide numbers? Given exposure of so many false “voter fraud” claims recently, it’s fair to ask her “How many documented examples of fraud from telephone book lists?” Of course these will be documented because that is illegal. And “How many documented examples of people thinking they had registered who then later discovered their form had been sitting on someone’s desk?” She won’t have answers because this is nonsense; so transparent that it makes her look foolish, except to those wishing to suppress others’ voting rights.

  3. Concerned about truth

    We need proof of legal residence at registration as well as at the time a vote is cast. That’s the only way to confirm that all who vote are legitimate voters and to avoid voter fraud.
    Anyone who has a legitimate registration should be able to turn it in within the 10 day time frame. What legitimate reason would they have not to do so if they have no “nefarious” motives?

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