The Arizona GOP Is Fighting Over the Best Way to Steal the Next Election

The election audit in Maricopa County has been a disaster, but the state GOP has other plans.
May 27, 2021, 2:57pm
A protester in support of President Donald Trump holds a flag outside the State Capitol Executive Tower on December 14, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Courtney Pedroza for the Washington Post)
A protester in support of President Donald Trump holds a flag outside the State Capitol Executive Tower on December 14, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Courtney Pedroza for the Washington Post)

Arizona Republicans’ sham recount in Maricopa County isn’t supposed to conclude until the end of next month, but the legislature is already trying to figure out the best way to steal the next election. 

If they can get out of their own way, that is. 

On Wednesday, the Arizona House considered a bill from the state Senate to tighten absentee ballot restrictions by requiring voters to include their birthday and some kind of ID number, such as a driver’s license or tribal ID, in order for their ballot to be accepted. But in the razor-thin Arizona House, two House Republicans joined all 29 House Democrats to narrowly vote down the bill Wednesday. 

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The Republicans, Reps. Michelle Udall and Joel John, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from VICE News on Thursday. But Democrats had argued that the bill would put onerous, costly requirements on ballot counters in a state that overwhelmingly votes absentee. While other states implemented a more comprehensive absentee process in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, vote-by-mail has been available in Arizona for more than two decades and is used by more than 80 percent of the state’s voters, according to Arizona Citizens’ Clean Elections Commission

Democrats also said the bill would hurt tribal elders who may not have an accurate birth date in their records, and could potentially open the door for identity theft, according to ABC News

“We also have received notice from insurance companies that by putting this information—by putting your last four digits of your Social Security number, and your birthday, and your signature in the ballot envelope—it is an identity thief's dream come true,” Rep. Athena Salman told ABC News.

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“It compromises the identity of the voter and opens it up and exposes them to risk, in which their identity can be stolen later on down the road.”

Though Arizona Republicans control both legislative chambers and the governor’s mansion, the House and Senate are currently squabbling over the state budget: Moderates are concerned about the impact of tax cuts on cities, and conservatives argue the state is spending too much. 

On top of that, Maricopa County has continued with its Senate-commissioned recount of the 2020 election, even as it’s become painfully clear that the audit has no basis and, according to Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, is ruining the voting machines. Earlier this month, the contract for Wake TSI, the Pennsylvania-based company running the hand recount as a subcontractor under Florida-based firm Cyber Ninjas, expired and wasn’t renewed. 

“They were done,” audit spokesperson Randy Pullen told the Arizona Republic earlier this week. “They didn't want to come back.” An Arizona company, StratTech Solutions, has since taken over the hand recount of more than 2 million ballots, Pullen told the Republic. 

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But Arizona already passed a new law earlier this month purging voters from the state’s permanent early voting list if they don’t cast a ballot at least once every two years—in other words, if they miss just one federal election cycle. 

And earlier this week, committees in both the House and Senate approved a bill to strip Hobbs of some of her power. The most consequential provision would strip jurisdiction over defending the state’s elections in court from Hobbs and hand it to Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican against whom Hobbs filed an ethics complaint with the Arizona bar last year. The provision would last through the current election cycle and expire in January 2023, after Hobbs and Brnovich’s current terms end.

“All year, our legislature has worked to undermine our elections,” Hobbs said in a statement Monday, before the bill cleared the committees. “The fact that the legislature has singled out my office for three unjustifiable restrictions — restrictions which expire at the end of my term — make it clear what this is really about: partisan politics.”