Arizona lawmakers give early approval to restrict mail-in voting

Lawmaker says bill would return Arizona elections to absentee voting as it had before the state established mail-in voting in the 1990s.

Published: February 8, 2022 4:32pm

Updated: February 8, 2022 11:12pm

(The Center Square) -

Many voters in Arizona would need to use the ballot box instead of their mailbox if new legislation becomes law.

The Senate Government Committee approved of Senate Bill 1404 along party lines Monday. If enacted, it would repeal the state’s Active Early Voting List (AEVL) and only allow mail-in voting for residents that meet one of a set of criteria.

A mail-in ballot would be offered to voters who are either:

• Expecting to be absent on election day;

• Physically unable to go to a polling place;

• Age 65 or older;

• Residing more than 15 road miles from a polling place;

• Unable to attend for religious reasons;

• Are visually impaired; or

• Absent because military service.

Sen. David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, said the legislation would move Arizona elections back to a system of absentee voting as it had before the state established mail-in voting in the 1990s.

“This bill does not get rid of any opportunity to vote early,” he said. “It does get rid of unexcused early voting so that those without valid reasons must go to the polls to vote.”

Democrats criticized Gowan’s legislation, saying it would scrap the preferred voting method for millions of Arizonans.

“This bill is taking us backward instead of forwards,” Sen. Sally Ann Gonzales, D-Tucson.

About 2.4 million voters cast their ballots remotely in the 2020 general election. Early ballots accounted for 88% of the nearly 1.5 million Arizonans who voted in the 2021 primary election.

In the 2020 general election, former President Donald Trump became the first Republican presidential candidate to lose Arizona since Bob Dole lost to President Bill Clinton in his 1996 re-election bid. President Joe Biden took the state’s 11 electoral votes.

Lawmakers heard testimony from supporters claiming others could prove the 2020 general election saw “thousands” of fraudulent ballots. A partisan election review of the county’s ballots found no evidence of widespread fraud, though many Trump supporters claim otherwise.

Many Republicans believe Maricopa County, which Biden won by about 45,000 votes, was the scene of enough potentially fraudulent activity that the election should have been suspended and decertified. Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, is a prominent proponent of the theory. She voted for SB 1404.

“Mail-in voting has been grossly abused,” Rogers said. “I, as an American, don’t want my vote canceled. That’s disenfranchisement.”

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