The bill, a part of the ongoing Republican effort to restrict voting across the country, passed on a party-line vote and comes months after former President Donald Trump and his allies tried to overturn Arizona’s 2020 election results.
Since it was amended in the House, the bill now must go back to the state Senate for final approval. If the Senate, scheduled to reconvene Thursday, passes the amended version, it will then go to Gov. Doug Ducey.
The Republican governor has not yet indicated whether he plans to sign the bill into law if it reaches his desk.
SB 1485 would make changes to the state’s permanent early voting list, which allows a voter to automatically receive a ballot by mail for every election. It would remove voters who have not participated in the last four elections, including partisan primaries, and also don’t respond to a final mailed notice.
A voter would be removed from the permanent early voter list only if a voter did not vote in any of the previous “two election cycles,” per a House amendment to the bill.
Critics said this could especially impact voters who are independent or who are registered as unaffiliated and may not want to vote in party primaries. While independent and unaffiliated voters — who make up roughly one third of the state’s registered voters — are not allowed to vote in presidential preference contests, they can request to participate in the primaries for other contests, per the Arizona secretary of state’s website.
The bill, under another House amendment, also would require voters to respond to a final notice about removal from 30 days to 90 days. The change also allows counties, but doesn’t require them, to be able to notify voters of their removal through email and phone.
The legislation is part of a Republican-led effort at the state level to restrict voting access in the wake of record turnout in the November 2020 election. A tally by the left-leaning Brennan Center for Justice at New York University found that 361 bills with provisions that restrict voting have been introduced in 47 states as of March 24.
In the last month, the effort to restrict voting has intensified as state legislatures begin to head into the final months of their respective sessions.
Proponents of the Arizona bill say the legislation will stop fraud and ensure the accuracy of the early voting list.
“Most voters want to have an election system that they can count on,” state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, the bill’s sponsor, said Monday at a news conference. “It isn’t about the outcome of it, it’s more about having confidence and faith in the outcome of an election.”
Voting rights advocates and Democrats say the bill could lead to voter suppression with thousands of voters at risk of being removed from the list particularly rural and disabled voters, seniors and voters of color and Native American voters on tribal lands.
“SB1485 is a voter suppression bill, plain and simple. If passed, it will deal a terrible blow to democracy and to Arizona’s reputation — especially coming as Arizona is making national headlines for the ridiculous election ‘audit’ being pursued by our state legislature,” said Emily Kirkland, executive director of Progress Arizona.
Several Arizona-based business leaders, including the owner of the Arizona Cardinals NFL team, have signed onto a letter that calls the bill “voter suppression.”