Arizona state senators block dozens of GOP-sponsored electoral reform bills

Michael McDaniel

Courthouse News Service

The Arizona Senate on Monday blocked a sweeping list of GOP-sponsored electoral reform bills that many Republicans in the state say would have addressed concerns about election integrity, following the state audit of the 2020 presidential election.

Twelve electoral reform bills failed to pass the Republican-controlled Senate due to negative votes from two Republicans. The surprising result came after sponsors and committees spent weeks amending and preparing the bills for final reading in the Senate.

The GOP dissenters from the bills were state senators Michelle Ugenti-Rita, a Republican from Scottsdale, and Paul Boyer, a Republican from Glendale. Both pushed back on claims by many of their colleagues that Joe’s Biden 2020 presidential election was fraudulent, and they were harshly criticized by the Arizona GOP as a result.

“I have major concerns with this bill and I have major concerns about what we are doing today,” Ugenti-Rita said, explaining her vote against Senate Bill 1570.

The bill would have prevented certain voting equipment from being connected to the internet, in an effort to protect against hacking.

“I’ve never seen so many bills for a piece of legislation come in a few days and just be left to die. I think that’s bad leadership. I’ve been here 11 years. It’s not not how we do things,” Ugenti-Rita said. “I don’t think it’s fair to the sponsors. I don’t think it’s fair to the other members. And honestly, I think there’s an agenda behind it and I find it inappropriate.”

Ugenti-Rita, who is running for secretary of state this year, is an outspoken supporter of electoral integrity.

But she came under fire in 2021 for objecting to the handling of the audit, saying it was botched on Twitter.

At a Turning Point Action rally in 2021, Ugenti-Rita was booed from the stage after posting to Twitter in July.

State Sen. Kelly Townsend, a Mesa Republican and audit leader, was the main sponsor of 10 of 12 reform bills on Monday. She expressed her disappointment with the radical dissent, saying it was personal.

“If someone votes because they want to retaliate, if someone votes for revenge, that’s my bill,” Townsend said. “Thank you and if you kill this bill to hurt me, you’re not hurting me. You’re hurting Arizona.”

Townsend sponsored Senate Bills 1056 and 1577, which deal with ballots, custody, and record keeping. A misplaced ballot would be a class 2 misdemeanor under SB 1056, and any duplicate ballots would be cataloged for analysis under SB 1577. Some of Townsend’s other bills are 1457 and 1465, which would add from vote tabulation requirements to the duties of the Secretary of State, as a response to some of the findings of the 2020 audit.

“A lot of effort has gone into these election bills…Everyone is working together to try and improve the electoral system to increase voter confidence, because right now voter confidence is on the floor. “Townsend said.

She said the pushback appeared to be a matter of “retaliation” rather than policy.

During the session, sponsors of the election bills pleaded with fellow dissenting Republicans to explain their vote in an attempt to negotiate. After being referred to twice as “the senator for Legislative District 20”, State Senator Paul Boyer later explained his vote on one of the bills.

“My name has been — at least my district has come up twice now,” Boyer said. “I felt I had to say something. The reason I oppose this bill is that it’s not workable. Counties can’t implement it. is as simple as that. It’s a very simple bill, and it’s a very simple problem. And that’s why I’m voting no on this bill. But while we’re at it, I have an extra copy of Dale Carnegie for my Senators from Districts 5 and 16 which I would be happy to pass along with this; I vote no.”

Boyer’s “Dale Carnegie” reference is an apparent nod to his bestselling “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” The comment highlights political divisions in the state’s GOP, as more moderate Republicans like Boyer and Ugenti-Rita split from their legislative positions.

Boyer, like Ugenti-Rita, drew heavy criticism from the pro-Trump GOP base in Arizona after voting against Maricopa’s oversight board’s contempt for failing to promptly respond to the subpoena of the State Senate regarding the 2020 presidential election.

Boyer, who is not running for re-election, cites growing toxicity on Capitol Hill as his motivation for stopping him.

With more than 100 election bills proposed in the current legislative session, GOP lawmakers are still optimistic that similar bills will end up on Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk.

The bills that did not pass today are: Senate Bills 1359, 1056, 1055, 1359, 1360, 1457, 1465, 1476, 1572, 1577 and 1609.

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