Arizona is the epicenter of the fight for the right to vote today

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In a brazen repudiation of federal law and recent Supreme Court precedent, Arizona recently enacted a law requiring documentary proof of citizenship to vote by mail or in presidential elections. In 2021, Arizona was one of 17 states nationwide to pass restrictive new election laws. Now he’s trying to detach himself from the rest of the voter suppression pack.

After a year and a half of conspiracy theories, a partisan post-election ‘audit’, undemocratic legislation, election-sabotage rhetoric from political candidates and a Supreme Court ruling further weakening the Voting Rights Act, the arizona has become a key battleground in the fight for the vote. rights.

Arizona’s story isn’t all bad news, however. This fall, Arizona voters will likely have the opportunity to approve a ballot initiative aimed at expanding access to the vote and protecting against election sabotage.

In 2020, Arizona saw an increasingly diverse electorate voting at historic rates. As soon as the returns started rolling in on election night, anti-election activists began spreading false claims about rampant voter fraud. Crowds began to form outside Maricopa County election offices, making bizarre allegations about the use of Sharpie pens to mark ballots, voting noncitizens and discarding votes for the President Trump.

These false claims have proven enduring in Arizona, among other places. In early 2021, State Senate Speaker Karen Fann (right) ordered an audit of 2020 presidential results in Maricopa County, launching a review process that, while deeply flawed and partisan from the start, ultimately found no evidence of fraud. Nonetheless, Arizona lawmakers continued to use the unreliable review as evidence for the need for new restrictive voting policies.

In April 2022, Attorney General Mark Brnovich (right) announced that the so-called audit had identified “serious vulnerabilities” that required new restrictions on voting access – a claim the Maricopa County Republican Secretary called it “despicable”. And at a conference soon after, Fann went so far as to say the audit results should require the state to “decertify” the 2020 election results.

Misrepresentations regarding the 2020 election have turned into campaigns for governor and secretary of state, both of whom play a role in administering and certifying election results in Arizona. Candidates hailed Maricopa’s audit, called the 2020 election “rigged,” said they would have refused to certify results in 2020, and introduced bills that would allow the legislature to override the vote popular.

Since the start of the 2021 legislative session, Arizona lawmakers have continually relied on these false allegations of fraud to introduce and enact new voting restrictions. The most serious of Arizona’s 2021 election laws is Senate Bill 1485, which eliminates the state’s permanent early voting list and will make it harder for tens of thousands of Arizonans to vote by mail.

As legislative activity around the election slowed in many states in 2022, the pace in Arizona picked up. Despite promises from some lawmakers not to rely on the Maricopa audit to justify further changes to state election laws, Arizona is among the national leaders in the number of restrictive bills introduced this year. In addition to bills restricting voting access, Arizona leads the nation in the number of election interference bills introduced in 2022.

New restrictive voting bills introduced in Arizona this year include provisions to limit the availability of mail-in ballot boxes, tighten voter ID rules and expand potentially flawed voter purge practices. Election interference bills range from extreme proposals allowing the legislature to directly overturn election results to more subtle attempts to subvert the election process by imposing criminal penalties on election officials for minor errors such as failure to update their computer passwords. In addition to the legislation, Arizona lawmakers also put a resolution on the ballot this fall that could disenfranchise thousands of voters by instituting a mail-in ID number requirement similar to the flawed system recently enacted. in Texas.

The centerpiece of Arizona’s attack on voting rights so far is House Bill 2492, one of the only restrictive laws enacted in the country so far this year. Previously, Arizona law required voters to produce documentary proof of citizenship to register to vote in state elections. HB 2492 expands this requirement to cover presidential elections and also requires proof of citizenship in order to vote by mail. Local advocates estimated the bill could remove up to 192,000 Arizonans from state voter rolls, and documentary evidence of citizenship laws have historically had a discriminatory effect on communities of color.

Additionally, HB 2492 could be an attempt to push the Supreme Court to further erode voting rights. The Court recently ruled that Arizona’s previous attempt to require documentary proof of citizenship for federal voter registration violated national voter registration law. This new law seems designed as an invitation to the Court to reconsider this decision.

Since the 2020 election, Arizona lawmakers have shown an abiding interest in using false claims about voter fraud as raw material to justify new restrictive election laws.

In many ways, these lawmakers have put Arizona at the center of the fight to make it harder to vote — but it’s also at the center of the fight to defend the right to vote. There are already several lawsuits challenging HB 2492, and Arizona voters may also have the opportunity to voice their opposition to these restrictions by voting for a possible ballot initiative that will expand voter access in the fall. . This year could prove to be a pivotal moment in the trajectory of Arizona’s democracy, let alone America’s.

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