This article was originally published by The Daily Star
The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer. Priya Sundareshan is a Democratic candidate for the Arizona Senate in LD 18:
We’re all waiting for the Arizona Legislature to pass a budget for the coming year, and hoping desperately that our legislators will put the $5.5 billion surplus towards what voters have long been clamoring for — our public schools. But instead, it appears that they are busy passing laws that (as even they admit) don’t need to be passed.
Is the Legislature focused on other pressing issues that face Arizonans, like making sure that we use water responsibly in the face of cuts from the Colorado River, or transitioning away from fossil energy given the worsening impacts of climate change?
Nope — but something that was important enough to the Republican majority last week was adding more hurdles to voting. Last week, the Legislature sent a number of election-related bills to Gov. Ducey for his signature, including one banning same-day voter registration. Never mind that Arizona law already prohibits same-day voter registration, because we require voters to register to vote 29 days before an election!
This is a pattern for our current Legislature, which this year also passed a law requiring all registered voters to provide proof of citizenship, in violation of federal law. (That was the same week they passed other dangerous bills in search of a problem, banning abortions at 15 weeks’ gestation and attacking transgender children). And last year they passed a law to weaken our beloved vote-by-mail system, hoping to kick voters off the mailing list if they miss a few elections. Plus, let’s not forget the “fraudit,” which cost us taxpayer money, time, and national embarrassment, handing over Maricopa County ballots to a set of grifters merely to confirm the 2020 election outcome while finding zero evidence of fraud.
I advocated against these bills while leading the state Democratic Party’s Election Integrity Committee. These changes to our voting laws are unnecessary and a waste of time. I have volunteered alongside members of the Republican and Libertarian parties in the processes that ensure our elections are secure: from the logic and accuracy testing before the election to confirm that the machines are counting ballots correctly, to the hand count audit of ballots after the election to confirm again that the machines counted correctly. The people who serve as poll workers take their responsibilities seriously to make sure the ballots are securely transported from polling locations.
I’m grateful for our local and county officials overseeing elections, who work very hard to ensure the security and accuracy of our democratic process. They’re even improving our voting procedures! Thanks to the actions of our Pima County recorder and supervisors, our county is joining other Arizona counties to institute vote centers that will make it possible to vote anywhere in the county. From my experience working in voter protection and running an information hotline, I can tell you that many voters were confused about where they could cast a ballot. And I can tell you how heartbreaking it is to hear that a voter made the effort to vote, but was at the wrong polling place and didn’t have enough time to get to the correct location to cast their ballot. This year, Pima County voters will have more options!
Our elections are secure. But at the state Legislature, the Big Lie of election fraud persists. We can ask Gov. Ducey to veto these bills, but he has not yet rejected a voter suppression bill sent to him. Make no mistake — we need a new Legislature with a Democratic majority if we are going to escape this whirlpool of lies.
In the meantime, we have a chance through the Arizona Fair Elections Initiative to approve changes to make voting easier and more accessible than ever before, and they can use your help now collecting signatures to put that question before the voters in November.
Priya Sundareshan teaches natural resources law at the University of Arizona and is a Democratic candidate for the Arizona Senate in LD 18. She lives in Tucson. For more information on the Arizona Fair Elections Initiative, visit https://azfe.org/