By Brittany Clingen
Phoenix, Arizona: Sen. Michele Reagan (R-23), chairwoman of the Senate Elections Committee, is sponsoring two bills, SB 1003 and SB 1261, that address early voting practices in the state. SB 1003 would prevent third-party political volunteers and activists from retrieving a person's early ballot and submitting it to a polling place. SB 1261 would allow Arizona counties to delete names from permanent early voting lists if certain criteria are met and make it a federal offense for someone to alter a person's voter registration information without that person's permission.
During the weeks and months leading up to the November 2012 election, various political groups, including Promise Arizona and Citizens for a Better Arizona, canvassed primarily low-income areas, calling on the homes of people on the permanent early voting lists. These groups encouraged people to fill out their ballots and either mail them in or hand them off to the activists and volunteers for them to deliver to the Elections Department.
Spokespeople for these political groups say that this door-to-door method of collecting ballots gives a voice to minorities who otherwise might not turn in their ballots. Sen. Reagan and supporters of her bills fear that those collecting them may destroy or withhold ballots of people who don't support the candidates endorsed by the political groups.
Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne, a supporter of SB 1003, testified that some voters had reported people coming to their doors pretending to be election workers. They offered to take and deliver people's early ballots, but not before inquiring who the residents voted for. Randy Parraz, head of Citizens for a Better Arizona, said that while his volunteers were canvassing, they would ask who people intended to vote for. If a resident was not going to vote for the candidates supported by the group, the volunteers would simply skip these houses when collecting ballots.
Both of Reagan's bills cleared the Senate, however they have yet to be voted on by the House.