Voting rights advocates decry GOP bills in Arizona State Legislature, saying it amounts to voter suppression

Several bills introduced by Republican state lawmakers in Arizona are aimed at changing the way Arizonans vote by mail, and getting rid of the permanent early voter list altogether. 

Currently, there are two bills in the State House and one bill in the State Senate that targets elections. One bill sponsored by State Rep. Kevin Payne of Peoria would require voters to get their signatures notarized before mailing their ballots in.

More than 3.4 million ballots were cast in Arizona in the 2020 election, and the majority of voters are on a Permanent Early Voter List, and voted by mail. Democrats and voting rights activists are raising alarm, saying these proposed measures amount to voter suppression.

"It’s the preferable method of voting for 80% of Arizona voters," said State Rep. Athena Salman of Tempe. "To see Republicans do this power grab after the highest voter turnout elections in our state's history, in the shadows of an attempt to overthrow the election results in Arizona, there’s no other way to describe this than as a flat-out power grab, and that’s what this is."

"Requiring a notarization does away with vote-by-mail, for all intents and purposes," said Alex Gulotta, the Arizona State Director for the group All Voting Is Local. "When was the last time you got something notarized? Having to have something notarized is a big burden to a voter. It creates a barrier, so what we see are a bunch of bills that create a barrier to voting."

Another bill, which was introduced in the State Senate by Michelle Ugenti-Rita, seeks to allow officials to purge certain voters on the Permanent Early Voting List if they have not voted in both the primary and general elections for two straight cycles.

"You'll be removed unless you decide at some point to get back on the list," said State Sen. Ugenti-Rita. "Of course, that doesn't interfere with your ability to vote. You can still vote in-person early, or in-person day of."

"These are all efforts to completely eliminate the Permanent Early Vote List, or severely restrict it so that eligible voters don’t actually have means in which they can vote," said State Rep. Salman.

The Senate bill was heard in committee on Jan. 21, and passed the bill in a five-to-three vote.

A coalition of community organizations and voting rights groups have released a statement, saying the bills are "blatant attempts at voter suppression, part of a larger pattern of attacks on our democratic norms," and that "as Arizonans, we are determined to stop these bills. Together, we must uplift and reaffirm our state's commitment to democracy."

GOP Senator speaks out on proposed legislations

State Sen. Ugenti-Rita says her bill is about cleaning up the early voting list, and making sure ballots are only sent to those who really intend to vote.

"Maybe you are voting, but you're not voting by mail, so you're just going to continue to just not vote by mail, so I don't think this is going to be disruptive for anyone," said State Sen. Ugenti-Rita. "If you are voting by mail, this won't have an impact because you'll continue to receive your mail-in ballot via the mailbox."

FOX 10 has contacted State Reps. Payne and Walt Blackman for comment on this story, but calls to their respective offices were not returned.

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