House Republicans approved a measure that will require voters to declare under penalty of perjury that they’ve actually experienced an emergency before casting an emergency ballot days before an election.
SB1090, which advanced on a 31-27 party line vote, also gives new authority to county supervisors to help choose the locations for emergency voting centers, a Republican proposal that followed fierce criticism from the state Republican Party of Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes, a Democrat who operated five emergency voting centers in the county prior to the 2018 general election.
County supervisors will now be responsible for setting the location and hours that emergency voting centers may operate, between 5 p.m. the Friday before an election and 5 p.m. the Monday before election day. And the affidavit requirement addresses Republican uproar of the Maricopa County emergency voting policies.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, does provide some contingencies that allow county recorders, the chief election officials at the local level, to run alternative emergency voting centers as needed.
But the main objection from Democrats came over sworn affidavits that voters would have to sign declaring a voter is experiencing an emergency that requires them to vote in such a fashion.
Perjury is a Class 4 felony under Arizona law, punishable by a minimum of one-and-a-half years in prison.
Rep. Athena Salman, D-Tempe, warned that it’s a violation of privacy to keep a record of such information. Other Democrats said that, despite the language in the bill stating those affidavits aren’t a public record, they’d be subject to subpoenas, perhaps from lawyers trying to challenge vote counts in tightly-contested elections.
That concern echoed testimony from the Secretary of State’s Office, which questioned the purpose of keeping such a record in the first place, if not to challenge votes.
“Maybe with this bill, our elections will no longer be decided by voters, but lawyers and judges,” said Rep. Randy Friese, D-Tucson.
But Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said there’s nothing about the affidavit that would tie such a record to a voter’s actual ballot, meaning there’s no chance a vote could be tossed post-election due to a legal challenge related to the voter’s emergency. Other Republicans noted the bill doesn’t require voters to declare what their emergency is, only that they’re having one.
Since SB1090 was amended in the House, the bill still needs final approval in the Senate, where it narrowly passed in February on a 16-14 vote.
Katie Campbell contributed to this report.