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2/6/2013 9:50:00 PM
Committee narrowly endorses bill on purging early voter lists
Jessica Boehm/Courtesy photoSam Wercinski, executive director of the Arizona Advocacy Network, speaks at news conference at which representatives of his and other voting rights groups raised concerns about a bill that would allow counties to purge names of inactive voters from permanent early voter lists.
Jessica Boehm/Courtesy photo

Sam Wercinski, executive director of the Arizona Advocacy Network, speaks at news conference at which representatives of his and other voting rights groups raised concerns about a bill that would allow counties to purge names of inactive voters from permanent early voter lists.

By JESSICA BOEHM
Cronkite News

PHOENIX - Over objections from voting rights groups, a Senate committee endorsed a bill Tuesday aimed at helping counties manage permanent early voter lists to reduce the number of provisional ballots cast.

SB 1261, authored by Rep. Michele Reagan, R-Scottsdale, would allow counties to purge from the lists people who don't vote in both the primary and general elections in a given year.

Election officials would have to notify those voters by mail that their names will be removed if they don't return a postcard saying that they wish to remain on the list.

Reagan said that after last year's elections officials in all 15 counties asked the Legislature to help them decrease the number of provisional ballots cast.

Karen Osborne, Maricopa County elections director, told the Senate Elections Committee that her office fielded thousands of complaints from people who didn't know they were on the permanent early voting list and wound up casting provisional ballots. Osborne said that 60,000 people on the county's permanent early voter list went to polling places in the general election.

"The other thing we have is thousands of people coming into the polls, and there were thousands, saying, 'I did not ask for this ballot by mail, I didn't want this ballot by mail, I don't want to be on the mail list,'" Osborne said.

Barbara Klein, president of the League of Women Voters of Arizona, said the bill could unintentionally purge the names of people who want to remain early voters. She said missing a few elections isn't grounds for removal.

"To voters who do not live and breathe voting, this could be difficult," Klein said.

Sam Wercinski, executive director of the Arizona Advocacy Network, said the change could lead to military members being knocked off the lists while on deployment.

The committee voted 4-3 along party lines to endorse the bill, forwarding it to the Senate floor by way of the Rules Committee.

Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, who voted against the bill, objected among other things to a provision that would make it a Class 5 felony for anyone to alter any part of a voter registration form after the person registering has signed it.

Gallardo said that some volunteers who register voters add dates when they are left off of registration forms. Although he said volunteers shouldn't change registration forms, he said a Class 5 felony was too harsh of a violation for those who think that they are doing something good.

Klein, with the League of Women Voters, said that groups who register voters should be responsible for their forms but called a Class 5 felony excessive.

"I don't think they should change forms at all ... but if somebody were to forget 'AZ' or something like that or a ZIP code, I mean I don't think that constitutes reason for jail time," Klein said.

Reagan said she recognizes that aspects of the bill need to be clarified and updated as it moves through the process.

Secretary of State Ken Bennett, who attended the hearing, said he was pleased with the decision and the testimony.

"I think the idea is worthy of continuing to work it through the process," Bennett said. "I thought there were a lot of good concerns brought to their attention, and that's what the process is for. And this is just the first step, so they'll consider all those things and try to make it better."





Related Stories:
• Editorial: Early voter ballot: Use it or lose it



Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, February 23, 2013
Article comment by: Bravo for the State Legislature!

@Steve Hyman:

This is NOT the regular voting list. Rather it is the people who've requested to receive permanent absentee ballots. IF they don't exercise their right to vote by mail in both the primary and general election in the same election cycle, the Recorder's Office will be entitled to remove their names from the "Permanent Early Voting List". (PEVL)

Are you on this list? If not, don't worry. And since you are a so-called "Independent", the odds are you don't vote anyway!


Posted: Saturday, February 23, 2013
Article comment by: Bravo for the State Legislature!

@T(h)is Is Clearly:

Are you saying democrat voters are stupid and don't know how to fill out voter registration forms? Maybe what you want is millions of dead people, illegal aliens and out of state (democrat) voters to be able to vote... early AND often!

@Just you know: Democrat & Independent voters vote at a lower rate in Yavapai and your Baloney crap about going after any one class of people is stupid. You are just like the cheaters such as the sleazy woman in Ohio who voted six times in the last election!


Posted: Thursday, February 07, 2013
Article comment by: Steve Hyman

The article says if you don't vote in the primary and general you will be purged. I'm independent and can't vote in a primary. Will I be purged if I miss 1 election?

Posted: Thursday, February 07, 2013
Article comment by: Tis Is Clearly

A thinly veiled way to purge democratic leaning voters, I am so embarrassed for my state. The even more embarrassing thing, is that most of the voters in this state won't care. You know if the republican party concentrated on being less crazy, they might not have to go to these lengths. Just so you know I'm a conservative.

Posted: Thursday, February 07, 2013
Article comment by: You just know

they will target Dem and Independent voters with Hispanic sounding last names. Make sure your status is up to date and don't let them take your rights away.

Posted: Thursday, February 07, 2013
Article comment by: Just Sayin'

Could much of this fiasco have been avoided by requiring IDs in the first place? Hello?



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