After losing two recent U.S. Senate races  and seeing the state’s voters award the state’s presidential electors to Democrat Joe Biden, Arizona Republicans have come up with a not-so-savvy new plan they believe will advance future GOP successes. They want to use their slim majorities in the state Senate and House of Representatives to pass measures that would—to put it bluntly—suppress voting.
It’s a nonsensical approach, given that Arizona GOP candidates did well in the November election amid record turnouts. Voters gave them legislative majorities  in both houses of the Legislature even though they had been down in the polls before the November voting. Every Republican U.S. House of Representatives member was re-elected to Congress.
The GOP should celebrate that encouraging news . Sadly, former President Donald Trump has warped Arizona Republicans’ thinking on voting matters. The most controversial bills they’ve proposed seem unlikely to become law, so it’s hard to understand why the party is using its political capital to telegraph the idea that it wants fewer Arizonans to vote. Republicans are wrong to think that lower turnouts harm their election prospects.
Whatever the practical political ramifications of these “reforms,” it’s wrong to restrict opportunities for citizens to exercise their democratic rights. Yet legislators in Arizona, and other states where the president lost by slim margins, have embraced Trump’s baseless election-fraud allegations  even after 50-plus courts across the country rejected them.
Assuring election integrity—the latest GOP buzzwords—sounds unobjectionable, but it’s hard to believe that’s the fundamental goal here. No serious person is in favor of election fraud. The long-term future of our democracy, of course, depends on the continuing integrity of our elections. Most of these 24 bills , however, would not accomplish any such thing.
There are indeed reforms that promote better election security, including one proposal in Arizona that would authorize something called “risk-limiting audits” —a means of hand counting a sample of paper ballots to assure that the outcome was correct. Republicans wisely supported this measure, which recently passed the Senate on a 16-14 vote. Their other proposals range from troubling to appalling.
For instance, House Bill 2370 by Reps. Kevin Payne and Walt Blackman would eliminate the Permanent Early Voter List  (PEVL), which allows voters to sign up to automatically receive mail-in ballots for every election. Shuttering the program, which has existed without major incident since 2007, would simply reduce the number of absentee voters.
Senate Bill 1485  would purge Arizona voters from that mail-in list if they failed to vote in two consecutive primary and general elections. Purging legitimate voters from the mail-in voting rolls wouldn’t reduce fraud—not that the bill’s supporters provided compelling evidence of fraud.
Someone might not vote in two election cycles for a variety of legitimate reasons. As former Attorney General Grant Woods noted  in a February column, this approach would have applied “to the thousands of Arizonans who received their ballot in the mail but chose to cast their ballot in person.” There’s no good rationale for purging these voters from the rolls.
Even Rep. Payne had admitted in the media that his House Bill 2369, which would require voters to sign absentee ballots in the presence of a notary, is not going to pass . Lawmakers often introduce symbolic legislation to make a point, but it’s hard to see the point of a bill that would place a difficult burden on people who want to vote by mail. National voting analyses show that absentee voting has an even lower fraud rate than voting at a polling place.
Voters have often endured long voting lines at Arizona polling stations—with waits  as long as five hours in some Maricopa County locations in the March primary. Meandering lines amount to de facto voter suppression, given that voters often will choose not to vote when faced with such daunting wait times. Yet GOP lawmakers want to scale back absentee-voting alternatives, which could alleviate that situation.
Other bills  still active would reduce the window for early voting and impose new ID requirements. We can’t prove raw partisan intent, of course, but it’s hard to otherwise understand the party’s reasoning given that there’s no evidence of systemic voter fraud in Arizona elections and, again, no evidence that limiting voting helps them.
The state GOP even admitted in a recent U.S. Supreme Court hearing that the party supports two past voter-restriction laws because it gives the GOP an advantage, according to an Arizona Republic column .
“What was the interest of the Arizona RNC (Republican National Committee) in keeping, say, the out-of-precinct ballot disqualification rules on the books?” asked  Justice Amy Coney Barrett. “Because it puts us at a competitive disadvantage relative to Democrats. Politics is a zero-sum game,” said the attorney representing the Arizona GOP. The GOP’s latest batch of voter-reform legislation reinforces that disturbing and wrongheaded impression.
Proposing bills that reduce voting is not only morally wrong, but it’s a bad look for the conservative movement. If the Arizona Republican Party wants to win back U.S. Senate seats and send the state’s electors to the GOP presidential candidate, then it needs to spend more time championing good ideas and less time trying to disenfranchise voters .
Image credit: vchal
- “U.S. Senate races”: https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/arizona-gop-plots-future-trumps-presidency-75434485
- “legislative majorities”: https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/arizona/2020/11/07/arizona-legislature-republicans-expect-control-state-house-senate/6193734002/
- “encouraging news”: https://www.npr.org/2020/11/11/933435840/the-2020-election-was-a-good-one-for-republicans-not-named-trump
- “baseless election-fraud allegations”: https://www.politico.com/news/2021/03/15/voting-restrictions-states-475732
- “bills”: https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/legislature/2021/01/21/bill-remove-some-permanent-early-voting-list-arizona-advances/6665628002/
- ““risk-limiting audits””: https://www.rstreet.org/2021/03/17/improving-arizonas-elections/
- “Permanent Early Voter List”: https://www.tucsonaz.gov/clerks/permanent-early-voting-list-pevl
- “Senate Bill 1485”: https://apps.azleg.gov/BillStatus/BillOverview/75568?SessionId=123
- “noted”: https://www.azcentral.com/story/opinion/op-ed/2021/02/01/voting-mail-under-assault-arizona-lawmakers/4266985001/
- “not going to pass”: https://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/news/arizona-voting-rights-early-ballots-republicans-legislature-restrictions-11526784
- “waits”: https://billmoyers.com/story/there-were-five-hour-lines-to-vote-in-arizona-because-the-supreme-court-gutted-the-voting-rights-act/
- “bills”: https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/11/politics/arizona-republicans-voter-suppression-bills/index.html
- “column”: https://www.azcentral.com/story/opinion/op-ed/laurieroberts/2021/03/02/arizona-gop-lawyer-admits-real-reason-wants-election-reform/6895380002/
- “asked”: https://www.azcentral.com/story/opinion/op-ed/laurieroberts/2021/03/02/arizona-gop-lawyer-admits-real-reason-wants-election-reform/6895380002/
- “disenfranchise voters”: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/interactive/2021/voting-restrictions-republicans-states/