PHOENIX (AP) - Republicans in the Arizona Senate voted March 2 to purge people from the permanent early voting list if they skip two consecutive election cycles, advancing one of several proposed mail-voting changes after Democratic President Joe Biden’s narrow victory in the state last year.
Sen. Rebecca Rios, the Democratic leader, said the bills targeting voting are "sore loser legislation" promoted by Republicans after the GOP lost the presidential race and two U.S. Senate seats in Arizona.
"We should want as many people as are eligible to vote," Rios said. "We should remove obstacles instead of placing them. But I get it. If you’re not winning at the game, what do you do? You change the rules."
Sen. J.D. Mesnard of Chandler said Rios mischaracterized the motives of Republicans.
"My motive is one of cost to the taxpayers," Mesnard said. "My motive is also not wanting ballots sent out when apparently there’s no one on the other end interested in receiving it."
The popular "permanent early voting list" allows voters to sign up once and automatically receive a ballot for every election. The bill by Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, would purge people from the list if they skip the primary and general election for two cycles in a row. They would get a letter asking them whether they want to remain on the permanent early voting list and would be removed if they don’t respond.
State election officials have said about 200,000 voters currently meet the criteria.
The proposal has had an up-and-down route through the Legislature. An identical bill died in the Senate last month when Republican Sen. Paul Boyer joined all 14 Democrats in opposition. Boyer later said he would support it after getting questions answered by lawyers, and it cleared the Senate in a 16-14 vote.
Among other legislation pending is a bill to shrink the early voting window and prohibit the counting of any mail ballots postmarked after the Thursday before the election.