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Bill restricting emergency voting centers passes Arizona Senate

Posted at 7:51 PM, Feb 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-27 21:51:45-05

PHOENIX — Arizona lawmakers are looking to restrict the use of emergency voting that allows people who can't show up at their polling place to cast a ballot ahead of Election Day.

A measure approved in the Senate on Wednesday stems from Republican frustration with Maricopa County's Democratic elections chief, Adrian Fontes.

Arizona allows anyone to vote early up to 5 p.m. on the Friday before the election. After that, they must have an "unforeseen circumstance" that prevents them from casting a ballot at the polls.

Fontes opened five emergency voting centers in the state's largest county ahead of last year's election and police the nature of voters' emergencies. Republicans said that was against the spirit of the law.

Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita's bill would allow the county Board of Supervisors to decide the location for any emergency voting centers. Maricopa County's board is controlled by Republicans. Her bill also would require voters to affirm that they have an emergency.

Democratic Sen. Martin Quezada said the state should be looking for ways to make it easier for voters to cast a ballot.

"I think these are unnecessary barriers," Quezada said. "We should be looking to modernize our system. This goes in the opposite direction."