In just over five months into her administration, Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) has vetoed the same number of bills that her predecessor, former Gov. Doug Ducey (R), had shot down in his eight years in the governor’s mansion.
As of June 12, based on data from Voting Rights Lab and Democracy Docket’s internal tracking, the Arizona Legislature has sent at least 30 election-related bills to Hobbs’ desk. Of these, Hobbs has signed two, vetoed 21 and has yet to take action on seven.
The volume of vetoed bills is not just a feature of a divided government, when the Legislature and governorship are controlled by different political parties: The Arizona Republican Party has uniquely gone off the election-denying deep end. The bills passed this legislative session — which is not yet over — reflect the GOP’s descent into election conspiracy theories and attempts to make voting and election administration more difficult. The slim Republican majority in both chambers of the Legislature does not have enough votes to override Hobbs’ vetoes, making the new governor a key player in blocking anti-democratic efforts.
Hobbs rejected legislation clearly designed to appease right-wing election conspiracies.
Hobbs prevented Arizona from exiting the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), an opt-in coalition of states that share information to help maintain accurate voter rolls. In recent months, there has been an exodus of eight Republican-controlled states from ERIC amid unfounded conspiracy theories.
The Arizona Legislature passed no shortage of policy based on other priorities within the fringe, right-wing ecosystem. The frenzy around electronic voting machines turned into legislation: Hobbs vetoed two bills that would have effectively banned electronic ballot tabulators in the state by requiring 100% of the components of a voting or tabulating machine to be manufactured in the United States. According to the executive director of the Arizona Association of Counties, that type of equipment does not currently exist.
“This bill could create a situation where Arizona’s election administrators are no longer able to procure certifiable voting and tabulating equipment,” Hobbs wrote in her veto message for one of the bills. “It should be clear how catastrophic that would be for the successful administration of elections in Arizona.”
The Arizona Legislature passed bills that would make it harder for Arizonans to cast a mail-in ballot and hinder election administration.
Arizonans have voted by mail since 1991, a popular and bipartisan policy that has become the target of the state’s Republican Party. The Arizona GOP has mounted several unsuccessful challenges to the state’s no-excuse vote by mail rules.
Short of removing the overarching law itself, the Legislature targeted the permanent mail-in voting list, a policy where voters can opt-in to automatically receive a mail-in ballot every election. Hobbs vetoed a bill that would have removed voters from Arizona’s permanent mail-in voting list if they failed to vote in one election cycle. Currently, voters are removed from the list if they fail to vote in two consecutive election cycles.
Hobbs also stopped two bills from becoming law that might have hindered the work of third-party organizations trying to help with voter registration or get-out-the-vote efforts: one would have required any nongovernmental entity sending election-related information to include the boldfaced words “NOT FROM A GOVERNMENT AGENCY” on materials and another would have banned any person from being paid based on the number of voter registration forms they collect.
Additionally, technical bills that address the minutiae of ballot tabulating and signature verification can be no less insidious in hindering election administration. Hobbs vetoed legislation that would have empowered political party-appointed individuals to observe the entire signature verification process, reduced the number of signatures election officials could use to verify a ballot signature, codified outdated signature verification guidelines and required the on-site tabulation of ballots.
Citing concerns over “anonymity and privacy — core tenants of free and fair voting,” Hobbs also vetoed a bill that would have released more voter registration and ballot image data to the public. Another vetoed bill required a video livestream of ballots during signature matching.
Hobbs vetoed seven other bills that aimed to accrue power within the Legislature, posture for messaging’s sake and more.
The Legislature advanced a bill that would have required the secretary of state to recuse themselves from overseeing elections in which they are a candidate. If this bill was in place during the 2022 midterm elections, then-Secretary of State Hobbs would have had to recuse herself from overseeing all elections in Arizona since she was running for governor. Hobbs vetoed this measure.
This spring, she also vetoed a bill that aimed to prohibit election officials or employees from being a part of political action committees. Other vetoed bills include an attempt to tell judges how to interpret election law and funnel the production of election guidelines through the Legislature in what Hobbs called “legislative interference.”
Finally, Hobbs shot down two separate bills that would have banned ranked choice voting even though the state does not currently utilize it as well as a messaging bill to “affirm the importance of the electoral college for presidential elections in this country.”
At least seven more election bills await gubernatorial action and with the Arizona Legislature still meeting for 2023, the divide between the Legislature and Hobbs’ priorities may deepen even further.
“This fight has been happening at the state level, and we all need to meet it there,” Hobbs wrote in a Democracy Docket guest op-ed in early 2022, describing the efforts to push back against attacks on voting in the Grand Canyon State. “With the ongoing attacks on the integrity of our elections and on democracy itself, there is simply too much at stake to remain on the sidelines.”
With her veto pen in hand, Hobbs has made sure she doesn’t stay on the sidelines.