House panel OKs bill making early ballot collection illegal

People who collect early ballots during election season could be charged with a felony if a bill introduced in the Arizona legislature becomes law.

"To turn something like being involved in elections into a felony is crazy," said State Rep. Andrew Sherwood.

That sums up how Democrats feel about the new bill, in a party line zone Wednesday the bill moved one-step closer to becoming law.

"Without the state ballot being protected, we lose the sanctity of the ballot, and things begin to crumble," said State Rep. Vince Leach.

"You simply cannot collect someone's ballots on a mass scale, and we have really reasonable expectations," said State Rep. Michelle Ugenti.

The exceptions include a family or household member, a caregiver, a candidate or a candidate's spouse. If the bill becomes law, anyone else who picks up more than two early ballots risks going to prison, possibly for a year.

"This is just a junk bill, which is offensive to many, many people. We talk about tampering with ballots, but what we are doing right here is tampering with elections," said Sherwood.

Opponents say the bill could harm get out the vote efforts, even the Arizona Education Association spoke out against it.

The bill is being spearheaded by the Secretary of State's Office, a representative from that office told legislators that existing laws don't do enough.

"We have laws, and we strengthen laws all the time, and this bill would help strengthen that particular law," said State Rep. Warren Petersen.

"The envelopes are sealed, they are signed, and voters give those ballots over willingly so that they can participate in the process, and this bill puts up barriers to participation," said State Rep. Eric Meyer.

The bill was approved in a 9-5 vote, it now heads to the House floor. The bill then has to be approved by the Senate before going to the Governor's desk.

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