Arizona Ballot Initiative aims to protect voting rights | Arizona News


By JONATHAN J. COOPER, Associated Press

PHOENIX (AP) — Voting rights advocates on Tuesday announced plans for a sweeping ballot initiative in Arizona that they say would “protect the freedom to vote” from Republican lawmakers pushing to redo election laws based on false allegations of fraud in the 2020 election.

The sweeping initiative would reverse recent changes Republican lawmakers approved to the ballot and initiative laws. It would also automatically update voters lists using driver’s license records and eliminate registration delays, allowing people to register and vote on the same day.

“This is a great moment for our democracy, and it demands a great response,” Joel Edman, co-director of the Arizona Democracy Resource Center, one of the progressive groups spearheading the initiative, told reporters during an interview. a virtual press conference.

The proposal comes with Arizona at the center of the threat to faith in democracy.

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Dozens of election bills have been introduced this year, some of which seek to drastically reduce early voting and mail-in voting. State Senate Republicans oversaw a partisan review of the 2020 election by supporters of former President Donald Trump who made a wide variety of false or misleading claims suggesting there were problems with the election.

President Joe Biden won Arizona by the narrowest margin of any state in 2020, becoming the second Democrat to win here since Harry Truman in 1948. The state will likely be a battleground for control of the US Senate this year and for the presidency in 2024.

The new initiative, called Arizonans for Fair Elections, is one of several ballot measures voters could decide on in November. Republican lawmakers are collecting signatures for an initiative that would require identification with mail-in ballots. Another proposal tabled last week would require voters who deliver a mail-in ballot at a polling station to have their identity verified by poll workers, among a variety of other changes.

Republicans demanding changes say they are reacting to a lack of confidence in the election results and seeking to eliminate opportunities for cheating. They bristle at the charge that their efforts are aimed at suppressing Democratic votes.

The progressive initiative announced Tuesday aims to circle the Legislature, which is elected by the people to represent their interests, said Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita, a Republican from Scottsdale and one of the main sponsors of the bills. GOP election law. If the public demanded same-day voter registration or other changes, lawmakers would, she argued.

“It’s sad. It’s really desperate. They can’t win in the legislature, so they’re going to vote and mislead the public,” said Ugenti-Rita, a candidate for secretary of state.

The measure would reinstate the permanent early voting list, which allows voters who register to automatically receive a mail-in ballot before each election. Last year, Republicans voted to purge the list of people who don’t vote for two consecutive election cycles – a bill sponsored by Ugenti-Rita.

It would automatically update voter rolls when people register for state ID, like a driver’s license, or change addresses. It would make in-person early voting available until the day before the election and create “voting centers” across the state, allowing voters to vote anywhere in their county instead of a designated polling place. .

The measure would also prohibit lawmakers from overruling voters in presidential elections, limit lobbyist giveaways to lawmakers, and increase funding for candidates who use the state’s public campaign finance system known as the clean elections.

“Disenfranchising voters is their goal,” said Signa Oliver, who works on the proposed initiative. “Our goal is to protect every citizen’s freedom to vote.

If voters approve, lawmakers would be extremely limited in the changes they could make. Two-thirds of the House and Senate should approve, and any changes must further the intent of the initiative.

Supporters need to collect 237,645 signatures from registered voters by July 7 to qualify for the 2022 ballot. They proposed a similar initiative for the 2020 ballot but scrapped it when the pandemic hit due to health issues related to collecting signatures in person.

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