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AZ Senators Offer Major Election Reform Legislation as Nation's Most Extensive Audit Is Set to Begin

A pair of Arizona Republican senators have put forward election integrity legislation meant to address concerns many voters have with the security of mail-in ballots.

Meanwhile, a third-party full forensic audit of Maricopa County commissioned by the Arizona Senate is set to begin on Thursday, the Arizona Republic reported.

Senate Bill 1713, similar to Georgia’s new election law, requires those submitting mail-in ballots to provide a driver’s license or state identification numbers along with their date of birth and signature.

Currently, only a voter’s signature is required.

SB 1713 passed the Senate in March and is now being considered in the House of Representatives.

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“I introduced Senate Bill 1713 because I had heard from numerous people, not only from my district, but from all over the state, that had serious questions about the process of validating voter ID of mail-in ballots,” state Sen. J.D. Mesnard said at a Monday news conference outside of the state Capitol in Phoenix.

Approximately 80 percent of Arizonans vote by mail.

“And at the end of the day, the starting point is you go vote in person,” Mesnard said. “We’ve extended the convenience to people to vote by mail and that’s fine, but we still need to make sure you are you and we still need to make other people believe that system will work.”

To further strengthen the confidence in mail-in voting, state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita has also introduced Senate Bill 1485.

The bill, which passed the Senate last month and the House Tuesday, changes the designation of the Permanent Early Voting List to Early Voting List for those who receive a ballot by mail.

It requires county recorders to remove voters from the list who have not voted in the previous two election cycles, both primary and general elections.

When questioned by a reporter whether SB 1485 would result in voter suppression, Ugenti-Rita argued, “Arizona is far and above one of the most convenient, accessible places to vote.”

“There are lots of ways to vote,” she added. “For the PEVL [Permanent Early Voting List] list, if you’re removed, you have the ability to vote in person early, you have the ability to vote in person the day of, and you have the ability to respond to the notice, you have the ability if you neglected to do that to sign back up again.

“If you don’t choose to exercise those opportunities to vote, that’s your choice,” Ugenti-Rita said.

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She noted that California removes people from the early voting list automatically if they miss four elections, whereas the proposed Arizona law requires a notice be sent out to voters before removing them from the list.

In Hawaii, which only has voting by mail, if voters miss two election cycles in a row, they are unregistered to vote altogether, Mesnard further pointed out.

“Where is the outrage? Why aren’t you calling them a bunch of names?” Ugenti-Rita asked the reporters. “Your argument is inconsistent.”

“You don’t get to mischaracterize [SB 1485] and lie about it. You can disagree with it. You can point to the page number and line item on the bill that you have a problem with. That’s America, and that’s not a problem,” she added.

“But you don’t get to label everybody who may support it as racist. You’re going to be called out. We’re not going to be intimidated,” Ugenti-Rita said.

The Arizona House Democrats Twitter account labeled SB 1485 “Jim Crow 2.0” after it passed on Tuesday.

Mesnard stated that the pair of bills are not about 2020, but about the future.

“There is no greater existential threat to democracy than having an electorate that’s lost faith in the election system,” he said.

“To ignore the concerns of so many people who are saying they don’t see the point of voting anymore because they don’t believe the outcome, that is voter suppression,” Mesnard argued.

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The full forensic audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County is slated to begin on Thursday at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, the Arizona Republic reported.

The venue was located after the Maricopa County board of supervisors refused to allow the Senate to conduct the audit of the 2.1 million ballots and voting machines at the county’s facilities.

The Coliseum has been reserved until May 14.

The Arizona Senate announced last month if has chosen four firms that will conduct the audit of the Maricopa County election results.

The announcement came after a judge ruled in late February that the Senate could have access to the ballots and other election equipment.

The Maricopa County board of supervisors had taken the Senate to court multiple times since December refusing to comply with the legislative body’s election-related subpoenas.

“After months of interviewing various forensic auditors, the Arizona Senate has found a qualified team consisting of Wake Technology Services, Inc., CyFir, LLC, Digital Discovery, and Cyber Ninja, Inc. to conduct the audit,” a March 31 news release from Senate President Karen Fann’s office read.

The news release said the audit will include scanning all 2.1 million paper ballots, doing a full manual recount, investigating the registration rolls and votes cast, checking the vote counts, and performing a cyber forensic audit on the electronic voting machines and systems used.

“There is technology that can look at those ballots to see if there are any anomalies, to see if there’s any dual voting and whether or not these were pre-printed,” then-Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Eddie Farnsworth explained in a December interview after issuing subpoenas for the ballots and voting machines.

President Joe Biden won Maricopa County in November by 2.2 percentage points, representing a 5.1 percent swing in the Democrat candidate’s favor from 2016, when former President Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by 2.9 percent.

Despite Biden’s victory, Republicans carried every countywide office in Maricopa save sheriff (which the incumbent Democrat held), including flipping the country recorder and winning the open treasurer seat.

Biden won Arizona by 10,457 votes (0.3 percent), the closest margin of any of the swing states that went for him.

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