Two Republican state senators, who are skeptical of allegations of voter fraud in 2020, blocked the passage of seven bills this week in the first major test of controversial election-related measures at the Arizona Capitol.
The failure of the bills suggests that few of the dozens of conspiracy-driven campaign proposals that continue to make their way through the Legislature are likely to reach the governor’s desk. House and Senate Republicans concerned about election security after Trump’s loss submitted more than 100 such bills at the start of this year’s session.
The senses. Paul Boyer, R-Glendale, and Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, who criticized the Senate audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County, provided key ‘no’ votes on the defeated bills .
One of Arizona’s campaign conspiracy champions, Senator Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, also helped bring down a bill, possibly in response to censure against her by Democrats and fellow Republicans – including Senate Speaker Karen Fann – earlier this month.
Explaining his criteria for voting against election bills, Boyer said some bills are just plain “bad,” some are completely unworkable, some contradict similar bills, and some would be “a waste of resources”.
He and Ugenti-Rita faced scorn from their own party members and election deniers in Arizona and elsewhere for failing to support the audit last year. Boyer decided not to seek a third term as a senator after being heavily criticized for voting against holding the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors in defiance of a Senate subpoena regarding the 2020 election. He also accused Fann of not treating him “fairly”.
Ugenti-Rita, who is running for the Republican nomination for secretary of state, argued with Senate Government Committee Chair Senator Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, over proposed changes to the electoral law and called the Senate audit “botched”.
Boyer and Ugenti-Rita received threats for their positions; Boyer temporarily moved his family out of their home.
Bills that failed Wednesday included proposals to mandate the use of Postal Service change-of-address information to verify voter rolls, require counties to use a “special” computer system for managing elections and posting digital images of the ballots for the public to examine.
On Monday, three failed bills that would have required manual counting of ballots cast at voting centers, mandated the state attorney general to investigate election complaints (even for federal races) and banned pens for paper ballots that leak ink on the other side of the paper.
The failed bills were all consistent with various conspiracy theories that former President Trump, his legal team or his supporters promoted after he lost the 2020 election. In Arizona, conspiracy and pro-Trump lawmakers complained – without provide evidence – of boxes ‘stuffed’ with fake ballots, internet-connected election computers, rigged voting machines, corrupt voter lists and other alleged scams.
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The pen bill was intended to prevent ballots from being rendered ineligible by ink bleeding through the ballot, a situation dubbed “Sharpiegate”. Election officials said during the November 2020 election that although ink bled through some ballots, no votes were affected because the ballots are designed with this possibility in mind.
Senator Sonny Borrelli, who believes Trump really won in Arizona and backed all sorts of conspiracy theories, gave moving speeches as he watched two bills he sponsored go up in flames, including one he pushed for months and allegedly posted voting footage.
He peppered his speeches with criticism of President Joe Biden and promotion of a new Qanon-linked conspiracy theory about bioweapons labs, a claim that experts have debunked.
“Civil liberties have been violated in the last two years,” said Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, visibly angry at the votes. “Elections have consequences.”
Ugenti-Rita said she did not vote on the ballot image bill because it was one of at least three similar bills and it would create havoc for all to adopt.
Senate President Fann: “It’s a sad day”
One of the Borrelli bills that fell on Wednesday was introduced by Fann, R-Prescott, last month as a comprehensive, well-thought-out and popular alternative to passing multiple bills with the same goal of election security. .
Senate Bill 1629, which was co-sponsored by 12 of 16 Republican senators, would have required the Auditor General to create a new team to conduct regular election audits, require election officials to release images of certain ballot images vote and change the voting rules. signature boxes and certifications.
All Senate Democrats voted against the bill, as did Boyer and Ugenti-Rita. Boyer expressed concern about the cost of the bill, which was estimated to be around $4 million a year.
Fann, who gave the go-ahead to the expensive election audit that experts called amateurish and poorly conducted, said no matter what anyone thought of the audit, it taught “valuable things” about how whose chain of custody and ballot processing could be improved. She waited a few minutes to declare the vote failed and said she hoped “a few more people could change their vote.”
Shortly after, she admitted defeat.
“It’s a sad day,” she said. “I’m sorry we weren’t able to make these changes for the benefit of voters.”
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Boyer later said it was “insulting” that Fann thought he would reconsider the bill due to pressure after he voted against it.
Boyer said he also received a strange call to reconsider supporting a bill from Rogers, who had sponsored the proposal to help match voter registrations with voter addresses. Rogers brought a Senate staffer to his office to speak about the bill on Rogers’ behalf, which was “awkward,” Boyer said.
He told her that her vote was not going to change.
The bill was one of six that supporters proposed reconsidering after their initial failures. However, Fann told The Republic that a bill will generally not be reconsidered unless the sponsors know they have at least the 16 votes needed to pass it.
Rogers voted with Ugenti-Rita on Wednesday on a Fann-sponsored bill that would have mandated a computer system for the election. It was not something Rogers had previously opposed, but her vote came after Fann authorized a March 1 vote to censure Rogers for statements she had made encouraging violence and political retaliation.
Borrelli: chess is a “complete parody”
Borrelli, who later aired his frustrations to La Republique, said he suspected prominent figures played a role in some of the votes rather than doing “good policy”.
He claimed the attorney general had “videotapes of people putting things in drop boxes in Yuma” and that while he had the names of the people behind these alleged election crimes, he would not release them.
He called the Bills’ failures a “complete travesty” and argued the audit had shown evidence of possible fraud.
Cyber Ninjas, the contractor hired by the Senate to conduct the audit, did not conclude in its September report that fraud had taken place, instead revealing that its own ballot count showed that Biden had actually won the elections.
Several election-related bills that were not directly related to the audit conspiracies passed the Senate this week, including proposals that change how the state approves its official election manual and another that makes it a crime to help someone vote in Arizona if they are registered in another state. These bills have been transferred to the House, where they will be heard in committee before the whole House votes on them.
Another bill, which prohibits the state from entering into a judicial agreement called a consent decree for election-related disputes, has now passed both the House and Senate and is now awaiting action from Governor Doug. Ducey.
Boyer said he was prepared to vote against many other election-related bills that he considers bad policy.
The most extreme election-changing bills also have a powerful enemy in the House: House Rep. Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, whose opposition to the audit sparked a failed recall attempt against him.
Bowers made national headlines last month when he sunk a bill that would have banned most mail-in votes, among other proposed changes, assigning it to 12 different committees.