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Arizona bill would make it illegal to register to vote on Election Day

Caprecia Miller is a voting squad captain with When We All Vote and is working to register people ahead of the election.
File photo
Courtesy of Caprecia Miller
Caprecia Miller is a voting squad captain with When We All Vote and is working to register people ahead of the election.

By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX -- Republican lawmakers are asking Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to sign a bill they concede has no practical effect.
Legislation on the governor's desk would make it illegal to allow someone to register to vote on Election Day. Rep. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, called it a "very distrustful process.''
Only thing is, that's not legal now. Anyone who has not registered at least 29 days before the election cannot cast a ballot.
And Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, pointed out during Senate debate this week that this does not -- and cannot -- tie the hands of future legislators who, if they have the votes, would be free to repeal it.
But that didn't stop Hoffman from getting his Republican colleagues in both the House and Senate to approve a separate ban. And the bill awaiting action by the Republican governor even includes the threat of a year in state prison for anyone who registers someone on Election Day and allows them to vote.
As it turns out, voters -- at least those who do get registered at least 29 days ahead of this year's Nov. 8 general election -- could get the last word.
That's because petitions are now being gathered on an initiative proposal seeking major changes in voting laws. It includes a specific provision to not only allow same-day registration but even to automatically sign people up to vote when they get an Arizona driver's license.
And a voter-approved measure would not only trump HB 2237 but also preclude future lawmakers from curbing or repealing it entirely.
Hoffman does not dispute that no one can now register and vote on the same day. But he argued to colleagues during debate in the House Committee on Government and Elections that his legislation is needed.
"Same-day voter registration is not something that the majority of Arizonans want,'' he said.
Rep. Sarah Liguori, D-Phoenix, asked him how he determined that to be true.
"That's me opining,'' Hoffman responded. And he argued that same-day registration "where it's used has proven to be a very distrustful process.''
Nor was he dissuaded by the fact that it can't now happen without a change in state law.
"Legislators don't always have to wait for problems to come before they address them,'' Hoffman said.
Quezada, however, saw a different motive behind the measure.
"This is just a political platform to expound upon the Big Lie that our elections are not safe and that our voter registration procedures are not legitimate,'' he said.
In fact, Quezada said, Arizona should be moving in the opposite direction.
"There are multiple other states that have adopted same-day voter registration and have had great success with that process,'' he said.
"People are mobile, people move, especially in certain communities, communities of color,'' Quezada said. "In my district, people are moving all the time, especially with the rising rent prices right now.''
And that, he said, can occur within that 29-day window between the cutoff of registration and Election Day.
Jodi Liggett, lobbyist for the League of Women Voters of Arizona, made similar arguments when Hoffman's bill was first heard in the House.
"Prohibition of same-day voter registration disproportionately affects those who find themselves unable to vote because of a name change, change of address, often women, young people, people of color or low-income voters,'' she testified. And Liggett said hourly workers may not be able to get the time to register.
That drew a sharp response from Rep. Teresa Martinez, R-Casa Grande.
"I'm a little offended that you think that a woman and collects an hourly wage, like I have many times, just doesn't have the ability to register on time,'' she said, noting that state law even allows anyone with an Arizona driver's license to register online. "I just feel that you are trying to victimize women by putting them in a category where they're either not smart enough or not appropriate with their time enough they cannot meet a deadline.''
House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, disputed Hoffman's contentions about problems with same-day registration.
"Over 20 states have same-day voter registration, including the District of Columbia,'' he said. "And we've seen it work consistently.''
And Bolding, pointing out that there is not now such an option in Arizona, had his own theory about what Hoffman is trying to accomplish here.
"This is another bill in a long line of conspiracy theory bills that we've seen addressed already thus far in this legislative session,'' he said.
Rep. Lorenzo Sierra, D-Avondale, was more blunt.
"I heard the sponsor say there's a problem with same-day voter registration,'' he said. "Well, the problem is, people are voting.''
Ducey, who has not vetoed any of the Republican-backed election bills that has come to his desk this session, has through Monday to decide what to do with this one.
On Twitter: @azcapmedia