Arizona State Senator Michele Reagan, rumored to be eyeing a run for Secretary of State, has proposed legislation not to bolster voter turnout but rather to make voting more complicated and cumbersome. This seems counter to what a Secretary of State, the overseer of elections, would desire and counter to the Republican Party’s mantra of protecting personal liberty and reducing needless regulation and big government.
Reagan’s proposed bill would make it a felony – yes, a felony – for anyone other than a family member or member of a household to turn in someone else’s ballot. In other words if a young woman was on her way to the polls and her boyfriend (who lives in a different household) asked if she could please turn in his completed and signed ballot, the woman could receive up to 2 ½ years in prison… for turning in said ballot. Democracy in action? I think not.
And how would this be enforced, you may ask? Sponsors of the bill are saying there will be no additional regulation required, but as it stands now, I don’t have to show any proof of who I am, not even a voter ID card, when I drop off a completed ballot or ballots at the polls. Considering that thousands of people drop off their mail-in ballots on election day, this would mean a huge backlog as election workers would now need to check not just the voters’ IDs but also the verification that the person turning in the ballot was qualified under law to do so.
And what’s to stop someone, or even a group, from continuing to collect ballots in advance of the election and simply mailing in those ballots? Are we going to turn our postal workers into elections officials to ensure this won’t happen?
This bill does not end needless regulation but rather creates it. Taking away a person’s right to hand over his/her signed and completed ballot to someone else does not extend personal liberty but rather inhibits it. Making it more difficult to cast a ballot does not embrace the democratic process but rather precludes it.
So why go to the trouble of creating a punishment for something that’s completely unnecessary and includes the possibility of jail time?
Unfortunately, though not surprisingly, this legislation is purely political. It stems from the last election and the efforts of two groups, Citizens for a Better Arizona and Adios Arpaio.
Besides signing up thousands of new, mainly Latino voters, CBA and Adios collected many of those ballots and turned them in to elections officials. They did this to remove any and all voting obstacles for lower-propensity and first-time voters, people who typically forget to vote or mail in their ballot on time.
Yes, these individuals could find a way to turn in their ballot themselves, but what harm is it for another individual or group to turn it in for them? If someone gives someone else permission to hand over his/her completed ballot, are we supposed to believe this is a crime worthy of a felony charge?
Senator Kimberly Yee summed up the political reasoning behind this bill when talking to Arizona Republic reporter Mary Jo Pitzl. She said she saw copies of the thousands of ballots dropped off at the polls by groups like CBA and Adios. She said that after seeing the box of ballots, “I know that voter fraud is real.”
That sounds to me like Senator Yee is suggesting these groups didn’t just collect ballots but actually forged them. That’s a very damning and in my opinion, libelous statement. Does she have any proof whatsoever to back her claim? If so, why are we not hearing about any investigations by the Secretary of State?
Voter fraud is a serious crime and one that is already punishable by law so clearly, this proposed bill is about something entirely different. It’s about muting the voices and interests of those who differ from legislators such as Senators Yee and Reagan.
Anyone who truly cares about “freedom” and “liberty” should be especially concerned when legislators pass laws intended to suppress the voices of its citizens, regardless of whether or not those citizens agree with said legislators.