Arizona voting bill fails in the House, with 2 Republicans crossing party lines

PHEONIX -- An Arizona state bill that would have required absentee ballots list more personal information failed in the Republican-controlled state House on Wednesday.

Arizona state Senate Bill 1713 would have required absentee ballots to list a voter's birthday, plus either the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, a state-issued identification number or a voter registration number, failed in the GOP-controlled Arizona House Wednesday night. Voters would have had to fill out an affidavit that all the information they put down on their ballot is correct.

The bill failed on a 29-31 vote, with two Republicans joining the entire Democratic caucus in voting against it.

Democrats argued that the bill would put an unnecessary strain on counties, especially ones with smaller tax bases, as they administered elections.

"Currently in the process, in Arizona's largest county, it is 528 hours of ripping the flap of the envelope, at one second a ballot," Democratic Rep. Athena Salman said. "So the impact of 1713 would take that 520 hours right now of ripping -- one second a ballot, the status quo that we have -- and it would add an additional 2,500. That's 2,500 hours, costing over $35,000."

She also said the new provision may deter some voters in Arizona from using absentee ballots -- where over 80% of voters cast their ballots by mail -- due to fears over having their personal information compromised.

We also have received notice from insurance companies that by putting this information -- by putting your last four digits of your Social Security number, and your birthday, and your signature in the ballot envelope -- it is an identity thief's dream come true," Salman said. "It compromises the identity of the voter and opens it up and exposes them to risk, in which their identity can be stolen later on down the road."

Democratic Rep. Jasmine Blackwater-Nygren said on the floor the bill could hurt tribal voters, as well, due to discrepancies over their birthdates.

"This bill will disproportionately impact our tribal elders who weren't born in the hospital and don't have an accurate birth date across all of their records," Blackwater- Nygren said.

The bill hadn't been discussed since early March, when the Senate passed it and it was sent to the House for consideration.

Republicans are currently wrangling to get a budget passed over the next few days -- and are working to incorporate some election and voting-related bills into the spending plan through amendments. The GOP majority is struggling, however, to get all of its members on board with the budget proposal for reasons including frustration about the new proposed tax plan.

On Tuesday, both the Senate and House appropriations committees passed a part of a budget amendment which would strip Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs' ability to defend Arizona in litigation related to elections.

The amendment would give the power exclusively to the attorney general, though the provision would only be in effect until January 2023, when a new term for the secretary of state's office begins.

The move comes after Hobbs last year filed complaints with the State Bar of Arizona against Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich, following a history of many election-related disagreements.

Hobbs said in a statement that the motivation behind the legislative amendment was clear.

"All year, our legislature has worked to undermine our elections -- from a wave of bills to make it harder to vote to the ridiculous 'audit' taking place at the Coliseum. It appears their next step is an attempt to undermine Arizona's Chief Election Officer and prevent me from doing the job Arizona voters elected me to do," Hobbs said. "The fact that the legislature has singled out me and my Office for these unjustifiable restrictions -- restrictions which expire at the end of my term -- make it clear what this is really about: partisan politics."

The Senate already passed a bill which would remove voters from the state's permanent early voting list if they did not use it at least once in two consecutive election cycles. Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed the bill shortly after it was passed.

Democrats warn that SB1713 may not be completely dead until the session officially wraps, but they called the result today a win.

The video in the media player above was used in a previous report.
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