AZ Guv Signs Bill To Eliminate ‘Inactive’ Voters From Popular Mail-In Voter List

PHOENIX, AZ - NOVEMBER 05: Maricopa County Elections Department staff members speak to each other while while votes are counted at the Maricopa County Elections Department office on November 5, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizo... PHOENIX, AZ - NOVEMBER 05: Maricopa County Elections Department staff members speak to each other while while votes are counted at the Maricopa County Elections Department office on November 5, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. Ballots continue to be counted in many critical battleground states as the final results in the U.S. presidential election remain too close to call. (Photo by Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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May 11, 2021 5:55 p.m.

Arizona’s Republican Gov. Doug Ducey on Tuesday signed legislation into law that opponents have described as a “purge” of the state’s popular early voting list. 

SB 1485, which Republicans had unsuccessfully tried multiple times to get to Ducey’s desk before Tuesday, removes voters from the state’s list to automatically receive an early mail-in ballot if they do not vote by mail in two election cycles, and subsequently do not respond to a notice from election officials.

The state’s popular “Permanent Early Voting List,” in other words, has been changed to an “Active Early Voting List.” 

In the wake of crackdowns on ballot access around the country — in Georgia, Florida and elsewhere — the legislation saw significant pushback from activists, Democrats, and some influential business leaders in Arizona. But the state was a focus of Donald Trump’s post-election effort to steal a second term by baselessly alleging widespread voter fraud; legislators subsequently introduced a flurry of voting-related bills, including S.B. 1485. 

One Senate Republican had earlier voted against the bill due to the ongoing “audit” of Maricopa County’s 2020 election results. But the lawmaker, Sen. Kelly Townsend (R), reversed that vote Tuesday. 

“This change will ensure that active voters continue to receive a ballot and free up resources for county recorders to use on priorities like election security and voter education,” Ducey said before signing the bill.

Opponents of the legislation have said that, if it had been law ahead of 2020, it could have prevented tens of thousands of Arizona voters from automatically receiving a ballot by mail.

“The true intent of this bill is undeniable and that is to suppress the votes of low-income, Black, Latino and Native American voters,” Arizona’s Senate Democrats said of the bill as Ducey signed it. They added: “The Arizona GOP are so threatened by progress and so convinced that they cannot win fairly, that they are actively attacking our Democracy at all levels.”

Most Arizonans vote by-mail, so the new law is bound to affect those who skip mail-in voting in consecutive election cycles without taking steps to make sure they get a ballot — such as college students or Mormon Arizonans on mission trips away from home. 

“We know this is going to be especially impactful for rural and tribal folks and yet we continue to pass bills under this guise of preventing fraud even though there has been little to no evidence produced of any actual fraud,” Senate Minority Leader Rebecca Rios (D) told the Senate Tuesday, the Arizona Republic reported.

Some activists, seeing the anger aimed at corporate America in the wake of new voting restrictions in Georgia, thought they might be able to assemble a coalition against SB 1485 in Arizona. 

“The hope is that corporate America can learn from that experience,” Emily Kirkland, executive director of the activist group Progress Arizona, told TPM in April, referring to the Georgia law. 

And some business leaders in Arizona did make their voices heard: Dozens, including Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwell and former Petsmart CEO Phil Francis, signed onto a letter from Greater Phoenix Leadership opposing SB 1485 and other bills. 

“The onslaught of voter suppression measures that have been introduced or entertained this session has been alarming,” an op-ed quoted by the business leaders read. 

“Attempts to disenfranchise Arizona voters is not ‘election reform’ and cannot be tolerated. Further, pandering to those who willfully choose to perpetuate misleading or inaccurate information cannot continue. True leaders will play an important role in sharing the truth: our election system in Arizona works.” (Republican senators expressed their outrage to TPM about the corporate pushback.)

On Tuesday, Ducey referred to large corporations “elsewhere in America” who’d gotten involved in debates over election law. 

“My advice to them regarding this law is simple: Know what you’re talking about before you say anything,” the governor said. “These big businesses have seemed to embrace a static view of elections: Freeze the systems the way they are, and view any change suspiciously. It’s wrong.” 

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