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Experts weigh in on the impact of Arizona voter bills

Posted at 7:55 PM, Apr 01, 2021

The Republican-controlled Arizona legislature is looking at changes to election rules which could end up disenfranchising thousands of voters while adding little, if any, ballot protections, according to several political experts.

Bills introduced in the 2021 legislative session include changes to Arizona's permanent early voting list to eliminate infrequent voters and reducing the time period for early voting.

ABC15 investigator Melissa Blasius explains how experts believe these are not election protections but blatant efforts to disenfranchise Democrats from voting.

Arizona Republicans first introduced the bills originally claiming they would prevent voting controversies and alleged irregularities like we saw when President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election.

"Republicans see if they can tighten up the regulations, even suggestions, which on the face of them, we might think we're okay," said Prof. Brooks Simpson, an Arizona State University American history expert. "The impact is to make it more difficult for people to show that they're eligible to vote and make it more difficult for them to vote, and that tends to favor Republicans over Democrats.

State Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills recently told CNN "Everybody shouldn't be voting."

He especially took issue with political parties or other organized groups that go to registered voters' doors and encourage them to fill out their ballots or to even drop off the ballots. A 2016 Arizona law bans so-called ballot harvesting, but it is under review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Not everybody wants to vote, and if somebody is uninterested in voting, that probably means that they're totally uninformed on the issues," Kavanagh said. "Quantity is important, but we have to look at the quality of votes, as well."

"Everybody who is of a certain age is entitled to vote in this country," said Tom Rodgers from Global Indigenous Council. The Council is working with Four Directions to launch an Effort to Preserve Their Voting Rights of Native Americans living in Arizona.

Rodgers said Arizona's election bills, if they become law, would make it harder for Native Americans, Latinos, Blacks, and other people of color along with all people in poor and rural areas to cast ballots.

The Global Indigenous Council and Four Directions are putting up billboards in Arizona saying, "You took our land. You took our children. Now you're taking our vote."

"What are you afraid of?" Rodgers questioned the bills' sponsors. "You're afraid of losing," he said.

Some political scholars believe Republicans are afraid of losing future elections because of the changing demographics of America.

"The United States is becoming less Caucasian," Prof. Simpson said. "Over time, our population is more diverse, and that means that we have to appeal to a much broader spectrum of voters who have very different interests."

Simpson added Democrats have been somewhat more able to appeal to that diversity than have their Republican counterparts. In Arizona, an influx of new residents from heavily Democratic states like California, New York, and Illinois also impact election outcomes.

The proposed changes to election laws could have unintended effects.

"Those people who tend to vote less often who like Trump, you know, they may have a hard time voting," said J. Miles Coleman from the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. "So, in some states, it may even backfire on the Republicans."

Got a news tip? Email ABC15 Investigator Melissa Blasius at Melissa.Blasius@abc15.com and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.