By: Mike Arnone
In the wake of the 2020 Election, states across the country have enacted a variety of more restrictive voting laws. Over 400 bills that make voting more difficult have been introduced in 49 states. 30 of these have become law in 18 states. Arizona is no exception to this trend.
In May 2021, Governor Ducey signed SB 1485 into law, making significant changes to the state’s early voting procedures. Effective after the 2024 election, the new law will recast Arizona’s former Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL) as the Active Early Voting List. As the former’s name suggests, voters could indefinitely remain on Arizona’s early voting list and automatically receive a ballot in the mail for any election in which they were eligible to vote. Now, if a voter doesn’t use their early ballot once in two election cycles (once in four years), county election officials are required to purge them from the early voting list if they do not respond within 90 days to a notice warning them of their impending removal. A voter can still be removed from this list if they have voted in person instead of using their early mail ballot in two election cycles. Voters would still remain registered to vote whether or not they were removed from the early voting list.
Arizona has offered voting by mail since 1991. It has since become increasingly popular among the state’s voters—75% are members of PEVL and 80% of Arizonans voted early by mail in 2020. Democratic critics of SB 1485 say that it will remove nearly 150,000 eligible voters from the early voting list and will disproportionately disenfranchise minorities, seniors, and low-income voters. They argue that the new law is unnecessary, will make it more difficult to vote, and was passed in response to record voter turnout in 2020, when then-candidate Joe Biden became the first Democrat to carry Arizona in a presidential election since 1996.
Republicans, who passed the bill in the state legislature along party lines, counter that the legislation is an attempt to clean up voter rolls and ensure ballots aren’t sent to ineligible voters. They also say the new law will restore voter confidence in the integrity of elections. While signing SB 1485 into law, Governor Ducey, also a Republican, said “[t]his bill is simple, it’s all about election integrity.”
Controversy surrounding the legislation could negatively impact Arizona’s economy. Greater Phoenix Leadership, an Arizona business group, sent a letter to state legislators expressing opposition to the new law. The letter, signed by 40 business leaders in the Phoenix metro area, read “[t]hese measures seek to disenfranchise voters. They are ‘solutions’ in search of a problem. They are attempts at voter suppression cloaked as reform—plain and simple.” These business leaders, and some Democrats, have also pointed to Major League Baseball’s decision to pull the All-Star Game from Atlanta after Georgia enacted major changes to its own election laws as evidence of possible economic consequences that could result from SB 1485.
Arizona Republicans appear unbowed by that potential fallout and seem likely to enact other legislation that restricts voting access. Indeed, it appears probable that other new laws like SB 1485 will continue to make voting more difficult in Arizona and many other states as the 2022 and 2024 elections approach.