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Senate committee kickstarts GOP’s aim to overhaul elections

The Senate government committee at work Jan. 24, 2022. From left, Sen. Sonny Borrelli, Sen. Kelly Townsend, Sen. Wendy Rogers, Sen. Theresa Hatathlie. Photo by Camryn Sanchez/The Arizona Capitol Times.

IN THIS ARTICLE: Fann replaces Mesnard with Rogers, changes to ballots, mail-in election bans for school boards and Lake talks Sharpies

Amid ongoing claims of 2020 election fraud, seven election integrity bills passed through the Senate government committee today, the first step in changing the way Arizona conducts elections. 

If passed by the full legislature and signed by the governor, a host of changes will go into effect. Two measures addressed ballots and would require the addition of new security measures and making them publicly available. Another measure lowered the bar for automatic recounts to 0.5% from .1%. Another requires the Secretary of State to give access to Arizona’s voter registration database to a person or entity designated by the legislature, while another bans municipalities and school districts from mail ballot elections. Lastly, proof of citizenship requirements for the federal voter registration form and a regular review of election equipment by a committee. 

Each bill was approved by the committee on party lines with Democrats voting against and Republicans voting in favor of the bills. Sen. Martín Quezada, D-Glendale, was not present for all of the votes. 

Four more election bills are still pending which, if adopted, could change early voting as well as registration and voting identification requirements. Since the 2020 election, an unprecedented amount of election related bills have been introduced in the House and Senate. Notable bill sponsors this session are Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, Sen. Sonny Borrelli R-Lake Havasu City, and Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Apache Junction. These senators supported the 2020 election audit and have advocated for decertifying the election results because they believe Donald Trump won the presidency. They are all also currently sitting on the Senate government committee along with audit proponent Sen. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert. 

Sen. J.D. Mesnard R-Peoria was assigned to the government committee but is not coming to the capitol because he has Covid. Rogers was appointed to replace him this morning by Senate President Karen Fann. Without Mesnard’s vote, the seven-member committee would have reached a partisan stalemate at 3-3. 

When reached by phone earlier Monday, Mesnard said he plans to take time off later in the session because he is expecting a child and wants to be home when the baby is born. As he will continue to be absent, he said he does not know if his replacement on the government committee will be temporary or permanent. Senate Majority Communications Director Kim Quintero said she does not have information on Mesnard’s replacement or how long Rogers will sit on the government committee. 

SB1120 (ballot fraud countermeasures; paper; ink) was introduced by Borrelli. If enacted, the bill would require a combination of “security measures” to be included in ballot paper such as security ink or holograms to deter counterfeiting. Fann is a supporter of the ballot paper bill.

“That just seems common sense to me that both sides of the aisle would say, ‘yes, we want to make sure we’re using ballots that are official ballots that cannot be duplicated or replicated and that are out there not accounted for. That we know exactly how many ballots were printed and we know how many is left out there just like we would our money,’”  Fann said.

Rogers’ SB1028 (ballot paper, security measures) is similar to Borrelli’s, but it was held in committee. Borrelli said he is aware of a company that can produce this paper in Texas but did not identify the company.  

Kari Lake sits amongst audience members who are seeking changes to the way Arizona conducts elections Jan. 24, 2022. Photo by Camryn Sanchez/The Arizona Capitol Times.

Gubernatorial candidate and former TV broadcaster Kari Lake spoke on SB1119 (electronic ballot images; public record) which would make images of ballots available to the public and would not show the voters’ identity. 

“I’m going to be on the ballot, and I’m worried about what happened to President Trump happening to me and others, Democrat and Republican. And I urge you to support this bill and any other bill that would shore up our elections. I’m talking to people every day around this day they are so concerned about the elections. This last election was shady, it was shoddy, it was corrupt, and our vote was taken from us,” Lake said. “I’m a citizen. I feel my vote was taken. I was handed a ballot and the Sharpie that was given to me bled right through, so I believe my vote may have been adjudicated. Somebody else decided who I voted for and that’s unacceptable.” 

Sen. Martin Quezada’s response to Lake’s Sharpie story drew the ire of the audience. 

“More than half a dozen lawsuits were filed that alleged fraud or misconduct in Arizona… but all of them every single one failed because there was not a single shred of evidence in any of them that there was any fraud,” Quezada said. “Saying that the election was stolen is a great campaign speech but it’s not reality and our job as members is to focus on reality. So, the reality is that this is solving a problem that does not exist.” 

Those in attendance drowned out Quezada several times and Townsend, the committee’s chair, warned decorum called for silence among those in attendance or the room would be cleared. 

Speakers and audience members were largely in support of the election bills. In public comment, a handful of speakers said they worked the audit, and several claimed there was election fraud. 

One woman said her husband votes Democrat and received a ballot. She is a Republican and did not and therefore there was a conspiracy to make Democrats win. Some who spoke before the committee said the 2020 election involved counterfeit ballots, Trump won Arizona in 2020, Democrats have run fraudulent elections in the past, and that the Maricopa County audit uncovered fraud. Other claims from residents were of 600,000 “unaccounted for” ballots, and that dead people voted.

 

This article was revised at 7:19 p.m. for content and clarity.

This article was additionally revised at 12:37 p.m. Jan. 25, 2022.

2 comments

  1. and how do these idiots understand that they won their own seat? There is no FRAUD! Go to Court for the 68th time if you or trump believes there was fraud, with FACTS. just losers!

  2. For almost 50 years we had voter-suppression protection (The Voting Rights Act). During that period, there was not much talk about voter-fraud. Then, in 2013, the S.C. “Shelby County” decision ended voter protection.
    Suddenly, there was a barrage of allegations about voter-fraud, brought to the fad level by Trump. There was no increase in voter-fraud. It was simply that the opportunity to suppress presented itself.

    This is a horrible example of simple people following a fad. Trump started talking about “election fraud” when he thought he would lose in 2016. When he won, there was no more talk about it. Then he lost in 2020 and the fad resumed. Make no mistake about it, this is not about election integrity. This is about winning and losing. Of course, some Republicans are simply ignorant fad-followers, but some are cynical about the idea that the majority should rule.

    There is no stopping our legislature from attempting to control election outcome. The laws will pass. We must do all we can to identify which voters are being targeted by these laws, and do all we can to make sure they vote, and that their votes are counted.

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