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Senate committee clamps down on early voting

Millions of Arizonans would lose the right to vote early and by mail under the terms of legislation approved Monday by a Senate panel. 

SB1404 would scrap longstanding law that allow any registered voter to request a ballot by mail, fill it out at home and then either mail it back or drop it off on Election Day at a polling place. Instead, that right would be reserved to only those who meet certain conditions. 

Sen. David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, said his interest is ensuring that voters don’t make premature decisions. 

“Sometimes there’s a lot of information missing between, how many, a week, two weeks, three weeks, a month out, when somebody could early vote by mail to that point when we vote on the first Tuesday in November,” he said. “You’re going to miss a lot of information that’s fed to you.”\ 

His bill, Gowan said, will resolve that by requiring most of the people who now vote early to instead go to the polls on Election Day. 

Others, however, told members of the Senate Government Committee that the 2020 election showed there are more pressing reasons they need to curb the process. 

“What we did have was a lot of counterfeit ballots,” insisted Gail Golec. 

Her proof? A report by Jovan Hutton Pulitzer who was involved in the largely discredited Senate-ordered audit of the 2020 election returns, who claims to have technology to be able to spot fake ballots. 

Golec, a Republican candidate for Maricopa County supervisor, also said she has four hours of “eyewitness testimony of people who saw batches and batches of Biden ballots in a row.” And she said there are “algorithms” of voting patterns that show irregularities. 

Every lawsuit challenging the returns has been thrown out of court. And that Senate audit failed to produce any evidence of fraud. 

About 2.4 million ballots were cast early in 2020. 

Gowan is willing to allow exceptions. 

One is that people will be absent from their precinct on election day. Others who would be entitled to keep getting early ballots include those who are at least 65, live at least 15 miles from the polling place, have religious reasons against going to the polls or are physically unable to get there.

“The numbers of people who will not vote because of this will be tremendous.”

Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale

Jennifer Marson, executive director of the Arizona Association of Counties, told lawmakers she cannot say how many would still qualify if Gowan’s bill were to become law. 

Sen. Sally Ann Gonzales, D-Tucson, said that should concern lawmakers of both parties. She said the record shows that there actually were more early votes from Republicans last time than Democrats. 

And Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, told colleagues they need to think carefully before taking away that opportunity. 

“We gave them the choice,” he said. 

“They chose to use that option,” Quezada said. “They chose it because it is a safe and reliable and secure choice.” 

And then there’s the other side of the equation. 

“The numbers of people who will not vote because of this will be tremendous,” he said.

Quezada also dismissed Gowan’s contention that those who choose to vote early are denying themselves information. 

Personally, he said he gets an early ballot but hangs onto it until the last possible moment to see if there are late-breaking developments. Quezada said, though, he still wants to get that ballot early and presumes that others feel the same way. 

But Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, said she sides with those who find problems with the whole concept of early voting. 

“The mail-in voting is something that’s convenient,” she said. “But it’s been grossly abused.” 

Rogers said it creates opportunities for fraudulent ballots that effectively can cancel legitimate ones. 

“I as an American, don’t want my vote canceled,” she said. “That is disenfranchisement.” 

The measure now needs a vote of the full Senate. 

@AzCapMedia | Twitter 

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