Arizona House Republicans vote to make ballot collection a felony

If Arizona Republicans get their way, it will soon become a felony in the state to turn in someone else’s early or absentee ballot.

From the Arizona Daily Sun:

A message from North Carolina's government, via Shutterstock

A message from Arizona’s government, via Shutterstock

The 34-23 House vote, with every Democrat present opposed, was propelled by arguments that the current system is ripe for fraud. Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, also sided with foes.

Rep. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, cited testimony from Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne who spoke during a prior attempt to enact this provision. She told lawmakers there have been situations where individuals claiming to be county election workers have gone door-to-door trying to pick up ballots.

HB 2023 makes it a Class 6 felony to handle anyone else’s voted or unvoted ballot. There are exceptions for family members, those in the same household and professional caregivers.

The upshot being that it’s now become harder to vote early or absentee — especially by mail. One Arizona legislator said that the bill would affect upwards of 10,000 people in his district who have to go to the post office to get their mail and could potentially be affected by this legislation.

Furthermore, I’m pretty sure that impersonating a public official — as the Maricopa County Elections Director warned is happening at an apparently-alarming rate — is already illegal. And if it isn’t, then perhaps Arizona could start with a narrow law dealing with that, rather than a broad law with a few exceptions that creates the statewide impression that voting is harder and more tense than it actually is.

Because as more research is conducted on the effects of voting restrictions on turnout, what we’ve learned is that, yes, the laws have negative effects on turnout, but that those effects aren’t necessarily caused by turning people who fit the laws’ criteria away. In other words, voter ID laws don’t reduce turnout because people show up to the polls without proper ID. Rather, voting restrictions’ effects are largely derived from the increased psychic costs associated with voting. When you create the impression that voting is difficult, you discourage people from showing up in the first place — even if they have all of the necessary documentation.

So when you threaten to hit people with felony charges for turning in their friend’s ballot, what you’re really doing is creating the impression that voting isn’t for everyone. You’re saying that the process hard, perhaps even dangerous, and that voters on the margins — who just so happen to be disproportionately low-income and non-white — are better-served by sitting the process out.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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8 Responses to “Arizona House Republicans vote to make ballot collection a felony”

  1. TellMeImDreaming says:

    Republicans are evil. Face the effing truth already.

  2. ComradeRutherford says:

    Gotta stop people from voting somehow because they keep voting for Democrats!

  3. The_Fixer says:

    Ah yes, Waukesha County, where thousands of votes magically get “found.” It’s long been the most suspicious county in the state when it comes to counting votes, and in the past governor’s races, they’ve reliably gone for Walker.

    It’s not a bug, it’s a feature of living in Wisconsin. Walker’s screwed with elections 7 days to Sunday, going so far as to have party affiliations removed from the ballots and the removal of the “straight ticket” vote.

    Wisconsin is quickly becoming a cesspool under Republican leadership. I wish I could say that it will change soon, but I am not holding my breath for fear of asphyxiation.

  4. Jackie Hill says:

    Republicans have decided if we cant win fairly, we’ll take these elections by any means necessary!!!

  5. BeccaM says:

    The only electoral fraud happening in any sort of systematic fashion in America involves the counting of the cast ballots, not the casting of those ballots in the first place.

    Such as in Waukesha county, Wisconsin, which always swings way more Republican than the actual number of voters and has astonishingly improbable registration and turn-out rates (like Soviet-era levels of 99+%), and where the concept of ballot security is merely a suggestion.

    http://www.truth-out.org/article/item/1059:city-of-brookfield-ballot-bags-found-wide-open-in-waukesha-county-wisconsin
    and
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/4/11/965994/-

  6. Ol' Hippy says:

    Any time a mention of voter fraud is a reason to actually restrict access to the poles. By restricting the access is another means to control who is able vote. By enforcing control they then can keep the right in power. These restrictions will, in essence, keep a portion of the populace from voting. They are typically working class or lower class voters. In the past I myself missed a few elections due to work and ridiculously long lines. Voter fraud in this country is exceedingly low. The only reason for draconian rules and long lines is a way to “rig” elections. The right has more voters that are retired or have access to absentee ballots and these are the strength of the right. Everyone needs to register, learn the local candidates and VOTE even if it’s a big pain in the ass, it’ll keep the rigt from ruining our country.

  7. MoonDragon says:

    I will take these bozo a bit more seriously when they at least give lip service to electronic election fraud, a potentially far greater danger to our democracy than voter fraud. Voter fraud requires recruiting a large number of people to assume great personal risk (penalties if caught can be draconian) for small personal gain to benefit a few who assume small personal risk for large personal gain. Election fraud using rigged programming can be accomplished by a small number of people creating software that is protected by law from review by election officials making detection and exposure a low risk prospect, for an enormous personal pay off.

  8. gratuitous says:

    It’s getting so it’s harder to vote in the United States than it is for a felon to get hold of a gun. The powers that be seem far more afraid of ballots than bullets for some reason.

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