PHOENIX (CN) — An Arizona Senate committee voted Thursday to advance election reform bills that would prohibit the use of drop boxes and add a precinct tallying requirement prior to county tallying.
Senator Wendy Rogers, a Republican from Flagstaff, presented Senate Bills 1058 and 1343 to the Senate Government Committee.
“I’m Senator Rogers, I’m the sponsor of this bill,” Rogers said of Senate Bill 1058. “This is basically no more drop boxes. Over.”
The former Air Force pilot’s comments were met with applause and laughter from the majority-conservative gallery. The chairwoman reminded the crowd that they must observe decorum in the reading or be excused from the proceedings.
The committee took comments from the public, with few dissenters of the bills. One dissenter felt the bills could sway voter engagement.
“I’m concerned about this and the other bills regulating voting because new restrictions on voting will have the effect of disenfranchising voters who may feel they can’t meet the challenges, and for no valid reason,” said Judith Simon, who has worked as a teacher for 33 years. “I’m thinking of voters in rural and tribal areas, [and] disabled and elderly voters, who may not read all the particular legal details and just hear, ‘Oh, we can’t use drop boxes at all anymore.’”
One audit observer, Jeff Zink, praised the bill and called for an end to voter fraud during public comments.
“As a witness to the Arizona audit, one of the things that we saw were the 700,000 [votes] that were unverifiable,” Zink said. “I went to Texas, I helped them, they’re now going to be doing a four-county full forensic audit in Texas with Governor Abbott. Along with that, I went to Georgia to try to help them as well. This fraud was rampant, not just in Maricopa County, but across the United States. Checks and balances are needed.”
Republicans cited their findings from the audit last year as the motivation for their yes vote.
“There has been evidence that has come out on that, and that has been turned over to the attorney general’s office,” said Senator Sonny Borrelli, a Republican representing Lake Havasu. “Evidence was discovered about drop boxes on a chain of custody. That evidence has been turned over to the attorney general’s office for further investigation. So, I’m tired of hearing saying this is a big lie.”
In previous months, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has charged individuals with voter fraud in response to the Senate’s audit findings. Charges and evidence for the chain of custody violations have yet to be revealed.
Senate Bill 1058 passed down party lines 4-3, but met stringent resistance from Democrats who saw this as vote suppression.
Senate Bill 1343, which principally deals with adding a layer of election tallying, was later read.
“I propose this bill that ballots should be tallied at the precinct level,” said Rogers. “Our research and feedback all have shown that the mischief occurs between the precinct and the county and if we have a count, an accurate count of ballots at the precinct where they should be cast, then we have that as a baseline we have it as a basis to compare to, and thereby we have more accuracy, more accountability and an audit trail, as it were.”
Democrats saw this as an additional step to the election process and quickly pushed back on the bill.
“This isn’t governing right here; this is stoking fear,” said Representative Martin Quezada, a West Phoenix Democrat. “It would actually add a step in a chain of custody process. That makes the problem worse, not better. So if we’re going to govern, let’s do it the right way. And this isn’t the right way. I vote no.”
That bill also passed down party lines: 4-3.
The Rules Committee will consider the bills before a final read before the Senate. If it passes, it would head to the Arizona House for review.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.