Arizona Republicans opened the legislative session this month with a slew of new voting bills, including legislation that would allow the GOP-led state legislature to “reject” election results.
Arizona Republicans already approved several new voting restrictionsMany of the last year’s finalists were reelected. GOP’s conspiracy theories about Donald Trump’s election loss into legislation even after their “forensic audit” of results in Maricopa CountyIt failed to find any evidence of fraud. The most important bill was the one introduced by John Fillmore, Republican state representative. Fillmore’s legislation could allow the Republican-led legislature the opportunity to reverse election results without any reason. The bill already has 15 Republican co-sponsors, including state Rep. Mark Finchem, the Trump-endorsed secretary of state candidate seeking to take over the state’s elections.
Fillmore’s 35-page House Bill 2596 includes a section that would require the legislature to hold a special session to “review the ballot tabulating process” and then decide whether to “accept or reject the election results.” The legislature does not have to have a specific reason to reject the results. If the legislature rejects the election results, “any qualified elector” can go to court to “request that a new election be held.”
“This bill is probably one of the biggest threats that we have seen here to our democracy,” Arizona House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding, a Democrat, said in an interview with Salon. “Nearly half the [Republican] caucus believes that the legislature should be the final decider, which goes against everything that we stand for when we talk about election integrity, democracy and what it means to truly be a republic.”
Fillmore, who supported a lawsuit seeking to overturn Trump’s defeat in four key states, insisted that the bill was not partisan and had nothing to do with the former president.
“I don’t care what the press says,” he said during a hearing on Wednesday. “I don’t trust ABC, CBS, NBCOr FoxOr anyone out there. Everybody’s lying to me and I feel like I have a couple hundred ex-wives hanging around me. This is not a President Biden issue. This is not a ‘the other red-headed guy’ thing.”
Fillmore’s bill would also eliminate no-excuse early voting, which is used by more than 80% of Arizona voters, and would require that all ballots be hand-counted within 24 hours of polls closing, which election administration experts say would require thousands, if not tens of thousands, of additional election workers in a state with more than 3 million voters.
Fillmore stated Wednesday that he would like elections to function in the same way as they did in 1950s.
“We should have voting, in my opinion, in person, one day, on paper, with no electronic means and hand counting that day,” he said. “We need to get back to 1958-style voting.”
Bolding said many Arizonans do not want to hear about “returning back to 1958.”
“I think about the 1950s, where you had poll taxes, where you had literacy tests, where Jim Crow was the law of the land,” said Bolding, who is Black. “For a large portion of our country, when they hear things like, ‘Let’s go back to 1958,’ they think about when their livelihood and their life could have been threatened just for simply having the ability to participate in democracy.”
Election administration has also been a major improvement since the 1950s. Arizona voters have shifted away from traditional Election Day voter voting since the 1990s, according Tammy Patrick, a senior advisor to Washington, D.C.’s nonprofit Democracy Fund.
“For Arizona to introduce legislation to go back 70 years in the way in which we provide services to our voters is I think irresponsible,” she said in an interview. “If this bill were to pass, the vast majority of voters in Arizona would have to change the way in which they interact with the franchise. You will see massive confusion and I think some real drop-off in turnout and who’s going to participate on both sides of the aisle,” she said.
Patrick said many lawmakers pushing voting bills are trying to “game the system by introducing legislation that they feel will benefit themselves and their party, when in reality it’s going to affect all voters across the spectrum.”
Patrick, who served for over a decade as Maricopa County’s head of federal election compliance, said the bill would also violate federal law. The Help America Vote Act allows people voting on Election Day to have “second-chance voting,” which means they can correct errors on their ballots if the voting system rejects it. If voters drop their ballots to be manually counted, they would not have this option.
Fillmore’s bill would create a logistical nightmare. As more people abandon Election Day voting, the number of Arizona polling places has dropped from 11,000 to 800 in just two decades. Patrick explained that in order for the state to adjust to the new law, it would have to pay for a huge expansion of polling places and workers. Arizona ballots usually include between 40-60 items to vote on, which includes propositions and local elections.
“The only way for them to complete a hand count of the full ballot within 24 hours, on millions of ballots in Arizona would be to hire literally thousands of people — in fact, it might be as many as tens of thousands,” she said. Patrick noted that all of these provisions would come at a significant cost. “To date, this country has said we want cheap elections because we don’t invest in them, except episodically, every five to 10 or 20 years, the federal government kicks in some money. States are constantly cutting budgets and local offices, country boards, and city councils. They have what they consider the most urgent services to provide to their citizens. So the elections infrastructure is continually being depleted.”
The most concerning part of Fillmore’s legislation is its attempt to allow the legislature to overturn the will of the voters, a growing trend in legislatures across the country, Patrick said. The bill’s language does not include any criteria or necessary requirements to reject election results.
“What is the situation that would allow the legislature to step in and subvert the will of the people in a legitimate election outcome?” Patrick asked. “There’s that lack of specificity and there’s ambiguity around when the legislature can do this.”
If there is anything amiss with elections, the laws and protocols for each state already exist. Any candidate, any political action committee, or individual voter with evidence of wrongdoing can challenge elections.
“But you have to have evidence. It can’t be merely conjecture,” Patrick said. “There were more than 400 court cases around the 2020 election and all but one of the federal court cases was thrown out. … In all other cases, they were thrown out for lack of evidence. It’s problematic because legislatures are introducing these kinds of bills as though there should be an additional channel outside the courts, and that it should go back to the legislature to decide whether or not they agree with their population.”
Fillmore did no respond to a request to comment. Fillmore claimed earlier this week, however, that the bill would not permit the legislature to reverse the election. According to the report, only the court system can do that. Arizona Mirror. It’s unclear what would happen if the legislature rejected the results under the new law and a court did not order a new election, or whether a court would have to order a new election for all races or individual ones.
Fillmore’s bill would also allow the legislature to audit any election’s results, though it does not say if there are any criteria to trigger such an audit. Cyber Ninjas conducted an audit of Maricopa County results last year, as requested by Karen Fann, President of the State Senate. completely debunked by Republican county officials. Cyber Ninjas is closing down. fined $50,000After refusing to turn over records, a judge will award the judge a daily salary.
Fillmore’s bill is one of dozens introduced by Republicans in Arizona, with many seemingly inspired directly by right-wing conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.
“One of the most troubling aspects is that we see carryover from the conspiracy-theory language regarding the Maricopa County audit, in which there’s this view that hand-counting ballots is the only way to ensure that you have a free and fair election,” Bolding said. “We know that not to be the truth. I think that’s this long line of conspiracy theories that we’ll continue to see in 2022 all the way through the next election cycle as well.”
The state Senate Government Committee advanced seven bills along party lines this week, including one that would require an audit of voting machines — despite the failed Cyber Ninjas audit of Maricopa County’s machines — and would mandate that all ballots use “anti-fraud” paper with holograms or watermarks. This is apparently after Republicans hunted for traces of bambooA conspiracy theory claimed that thousands of ballots were flown in from China. Another bill proposed by the committee would require all ballot images be published online.
Other bills would require voter ID to include fingerprints and special security codes. They also ban same-day voter registration and automated voter registration. They also increase the threshold for election recount from 0.1% to 0.5%. They ban drive-through voting and drop-boxes.
Wendy Rogers, a state senator and one of the most passionate election conspiracy theorists in the country, proposed a bill that would create a Bureau of Elections. It would answer to the governor and be empowered to investigate allegations of fraud. similar to those floatedFlorida Governor. Ron DeSantis, and Georgia gubernatorial hopeful David Perdue. Voter fraud is rare, despite numerous anecdotal reportsMany Trump supporters vote illegally, and there are many laws that criminalize it.
Bolding said he is particularly concerned about the “constant attacks” from Republicans on the vote-by-mail system. “Because you’ve seen Arizona move from a ruby-red state to one that is shifting purple and moving blue, I think you see politicians now are trying to implement power grabs,” he said.
Patrick said that when she was Maricopa County’s federal compliance officer, her main job was to submit every policy to the Justice Department under the Voting Rights Act, which required the DOJ to pre-clear any voting changes in states with a history of racial discrimination.
Because the legislature knew that egregious voting-law changes “would never be pre-cleared by the federal government,” such changes were not enacted or even introduced, she said. But since the Supreme Court gutted that provision of the law, “it gives everyone carte blanche ability to implement any kind of voting legislation, irrespective of whether or not it’s retrogressive or hurtful to all voters or even to specific voting populations.”