WASHINGTON, D.C. — As of Wednesday, Jan. 18, Arizona Republicans have introduced at least four extreme proposals to seriously curtail or fully repeal early and/or mail-in voting in the Grand Canyon State. These bills come on the heels of the state’s highest court rejecting — for the second time — the Arizona Republican Party’s attempt to undo the state’s popular mail-in voting system.
Arizona adopted no-excuse mail-in voting in 1991. Yet, after enjoying years of bipartisan support, Republican lawmakers have prioritized restrictions on this convenient form of voting. Nationwide, the use of mail-in voting surged during the 2020 election due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In Arizona, the practice has a long legacy and is especially popular: In 2020, nearly 90% of voters took advantage of early voting, the majority by mail.
House Bill 2096 would shorten the time available for voters to return mail-in ballots. Currently, all ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day. Under H.B. 2096, that deadline would remain the same for ballots returned through the U.S. Postal Service, but all ballots returned to vote centers, election offices or drop boxes would need to be dropped off by 5 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day. For context, around 290,000 ballots were returned on Election Day alone in the state’s largest county in 2022.
Another three bills were introduced by the same quartet of Republican lawmakers, Reps. Liz Harris, Justin Heap, Rachel Jones and Austin Smith:
- House Bill 2229 would end mail-in voting except for military and overseas voters or voters temporarily living outside of the state. The bill text is straightforward: “Voting by mail is banned in this state.”
- House Bill 2231 would re-institute a narrow list of excuses to vote by mail. The only voters qualified to vote by mail would be those physically unable to go to the polls due to illness, age or absence from their precinct on Election Day.
- House Bill 2232 would require all voting to occur on Election Day with paper ballots. The bill would ban the use of electronic tabulator machines; all ballots would need to be hand counted, an unfeasible venture in a jurisdiction as populous as the state of Arizona.
According to a Democracy Docket report, there were 51 lawsuits filed in 2022 that focused on mail-in voting. Nearly all of these lawsuits sought to restrict the process, a priority for Republicans in both courtrooms and legislative chambers across the country that does not seem to be going away anytime soon.