Moral Low Ground

Civil Liberties

HB 2305: Voting Rights Under Attack in Arizona

HB 2305AzBlueMeanie, Blog for Arizona

Jon Stewart of The Daily Show characterized Arizona as the “meth lab of democracy” for our “show me your papers” law, SB 1070. Stewart is mostly correct. Almost every “model legislation” bill from right-wing organizations like ALEC, FAIR, the NRA, Americans for Prosperity, the Goldwater Institute, Center for Arizona Policy, the Susan B. Anthony List, and on and on, was “lab tested” here in Arizona first, or followed a close second.

The Protect Your Right to Vote Arizona Committee responsible for the citizens referendum (“citizens veto”) of the Voter Suppression Act, HB 2305, emphasizes this fact in a press release today.

Arizona at Front Edge of National Trend to Restrict Voting Rights
Politicians Add New Hurdles While Many of Nation’s Most Restrictive Voter Policies Already in Place

PHOENIX — Media outlets recently dubbed North Carolina’s sweeping new voter restriction legislation the “worst in the nation.”

But Arizona’s new roadblocks to get tough on voters — House Bill 2305 — is in many ways worse than North Carolina because it was approved on top of some of the nation’s most restrictive voting laws already in place, said Julie Erfle, Chairwoman of the Protect Your Right To Vote Arizona Committee. Erfle is leading a broad and diverse coalition working together to overturn HB2305 through a voter referendum. HB 2305 helps career politicians rig the system by preventing tens of thousands of eligible voters from casting their ballots. The bill will kick people off the early voter rolls and make it a felony for volunteer groups to help elderly, homebound and economically disadvantaged voters get their early voting ballots to the polls. It also helps politicians hold onto power by keeping third parties off the ballot and making it extremely difficult for Arizonans to overturn the Legislature’s decisions through citizen initiatives.

After the United States Supreme Court voted to gut the 1964 Civil Rights act in June, North Carolina, Texas and several other states quickly introduced new legislation to discourage the poor and minorities from voting. Arizona’s effort to get even tougher on voters had passed and was signed just days before the Court ruled.

“If you compare the main prongs of North Carolina’s anti-voter bill to what’s already in law in Arizona, you can clearly see why so many organizations are working together to stop career politicians from making it even harder for eligible Arizona voters to cast their ballots,” Erfle said. “House Bill 2305 was an attempt by incumbent politicians at the legislature to take out all their competition at once. But it’s not right for politicians to pick their voters, it should be the other way around.”

Compare the two states:

· North Carolina will eliminate same-day voter registration. Arizona does not allow voters to register on election day, and in fact shuts down registration a month out, which shuts out many potential voters.

· North Carolina will reduce early voting by a week. Arizona allows in-person early voting at limited sites, but it is rarely used compared to the more popular mail-in ballots. However, mail-in ballots must be mailed by the Friday before Election Day or dropped off at a polling place. In Maricopa County, 2,500 mailed ballots were received after the Tuesday Election Day and were not counted. That number will rise dramatically because HB2305 makes it a crime for volunteer organizations to drop early ballots for voters that – if mailed too late – won’t be counted.

· North Carolina will eliminate the option to vote a straight party ticket. Arizona does not allow that now.

· North Carolina will blow the lid off its legislative campaign finance donations, raising the individual limit to $5,000. Arizona legislators pass an identical law, House Bill 2593, in this session.

· North Carolina will repeal out-of-precinct voting. Arizona does not allow voters to cast in-person ballots in wrong precincts. In fact, more than 7,500 votes were disallowed in Maricopa County because poll workers improperly issued provisional ballots to voters who had showed up to the wrong polling places instead of directing them to the correct location.

· North Carolina will now allow any voter to challenge the eligibility of someone’s voting status. This state-sanctioned harassment of voters is already legal in Arizona and is heavily promoted by the Republican Party as part of its “True the Vote” program.

“On top of this, House Bill 2305 also makes it extremely difficult for citizen initiatives and third-party candidates to get on the ballot,” Erfle added. “North Carolina is bad, but Arizona is really the perfect storm of politicians protecting themselves instead of protecting our right to vote.”

There are many election reforms that Arizona needs to implement, but HB 2305 addresses none of them. An in-depth analysis of the 2012 election revealed numerous concerns that county elections officials refuse to acknowledge or address. Those concerns include:

· The backlog of uncounted votes on Election Day in 2012 had less to do with the 170,000 ballots dropped off at the polls than with a backlog of 250,000 uncounted early votes, which created a colossal traffic jam. Election officials must start counting these votes earlier and running the machines all day Sunday, Monday and Tuesday to eliminate any backlog.

· The largest grouping of provisional votes that were disqualified was voters who showed up to the wrong polling place. Election workers should have directed these voters to the correct location. Instead, because poll workers didn’t receive proper training they gave more than 7,500 eligible voters provisional ballots that were subsequently disqualified. Why did this happen and what is being done to prevent it in 2014?

“It’s time for elected campaign officials to stop blaming voters for their problems handling the increasing popularity of early voting,” Erfle said. “The only way House Bill 2305 will make matters more convenient for election officials is to prevent or discourage tens of thousands of eligible voters from voting. We should pass laws to make it easier to vote, not harder.”

(Contact: Robbie Sherwood, Protect Your Right to Vote Arizona Committee, 480-246-7944)

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