Amid Partisan Election Audit, Arizona Passes New Voting Restrictions

By: - May 11, 2021 12:00 am

Contractors examine Maricopa County, Arizona, ballots during a Republican-backed audit of 2020 presidential election results. Voting rights advocates have criticized the process. Matt York/The Associated Press

Arizonans will no longer have a post-election grace period for fixing errors on their mail-in ballots.

Under a law Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed late last week, Arizona voters will not be allowed to sign an unsigned mail-in ballot up to five days after an election. The new law requires ballots be properly signed by 7 p.m. on Election Day.

Republican backers of the measure say it will ease the burden on local election officials, who they argue should not have to track down voters who fail to sign ballots.

“The voter is responsible for signing the ballot,” the bill’s author, Republican state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, told Fox’s Phoenix affiliate. “If that’s too cumbersome, or a voter doesn’t like that, I would suggest not voting by mail.”

Republican lawmakers in Arizona proposed several voting restrictions this session.

The state House last month passed a bill that would remove Arizonans who fail to vote in two consecutive elections from a permanent list of voters who receive a mail-in ballot. If it passes the state Senate this week and is signed by the governor, the bill would purge around 200,000 voters from the list.

Democratic lawmakers and voting rights advocates have slammed these efforts, saying they will disproportionately hurt voters of color and young people. Arizona is one of several Republican-controlled states that have enacted new voting restrictions this year.

Meanwhile, a Republican-backed audit of the election results for Maricopa County, which encompasses Phoenix, is both hyper-partisan and laden with conspiracy theories.

The state Senate used its subpoena powers to secure all 2.1 million local ballots to audit the results. Republicans, who control the chamber, are driven by the widely debunked falsehood that former President Donald Trump lost his reelection because of massive voter fraud.

The audit is being conducted by a Florida-based consulting firm with no experience in election audits, and whose CEO supported Trump and has shared conspiracy theories about the election. The process has been widely criticized for a lack of transparency. The media is not allowed to observe the audit.

Some of the proposed tactics for the audit, such as door-to-door canvassing of voters, have been so extreme that the U.S. Department of Justice warned the state could violate civil rights protections.

“Such investigative efforts can have a significant intimidating effect on qualified voters that can deter them from seeking to vote in the future,” said Pamela Karlan, principal deputy assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division, in a letter to state Senate President Karen Fann, a Republican.

While she defended the audit, Fann agreed to not allow a door-to-door canvass—at least for now.

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Matt Vasilogambros
Matt Vasilogambros

Matt Vasilogambros covers voting rights, gun laws and Western climate policy for Stateline. He lives in San Diego, California.