Feuding Arizona GOP lawmakers stall election reform bill

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An ongoing disagreement between two Republican lawmakers has left an effort to clean up Arizona's Permanent Early Voter List (PEVL) in legislative limbo.

Senate Bill 1485 would require county elections officials to send a postcard to a voter on the PEVL who missed an election over two electoral cycles. The card will ask whether they want to remain on the list. The voter, who also would be called and emailed, would have 90 days to respond before officials remove them.

After a contentious debate in the House on Wednesday, senators only needed to concur with the opposite chamber’s changes Thursday before sponsor Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, could send the bill to Gov. Doug Ducey.

It soon became clear the bill lacked the votes to pass. Ugenti-Rita addressed the chamber to explain Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, wouldn’t support it.

“It’s disappointing to be on the receiving end of someone’s temper tantrum,” Ugenti-Rita said, prompting Townsend’s objection.

Since Republicans have a one-member majority in the Senate, Townsend’s defiance stopped the bill in its tracks. Townsend said her vote against the bill wasn’t a tantrum, rather a show of her commitment to passing other election reforms after their audit of Maricopa County’s 2020 election results.

“It is incumbent on us to be patient,” Townsend said. “I am for this bill, but I am not voting for it until after the audit.”

The Arizona Senate obtained Maricopa County’s 2.1 million ballots cast in the 2020 General Election on Thursday and moved forward with an unprecedented recount. Many Republicans maintain the county’s election was rigged, handing Joe Biden the state’s 11 electoral votes. Townsend referenced the county’s high percentage of adjudicated votes, meaning a ballot review by a small panel to divine the voter’s intent.

Townsend later released a statement saying, “Michelle Ugenti-Rita feels that this move is a temper tantrum because she killed all my election reform bills in her committee. She went so far as to say that I need to ‘get over my jealousy.’ ” Townsend described Ugenti-Rita as “scandal laden.”

Ugenti-Rita wasn’t immediately available to respond to Townsend’s comments Thursday afternoon.

Townsend shared a picture of a whiteboard on Facebook three days prior, listing all of her sponsored legislation organized by status. The largest column was labeled dead bills “killed by Ugenti-Rita.”

Democrats remained in unanimous opposition to the reform, leaving Republicans to either make amends or give up efforts to pass the bill, or any of the other remaining election reform bills Townsend said she would not vote on until after the audit concluded. Democrats maintain SB 1485 would purge more than 100,000 voters from the PEVL.

Ugenti-Rita resurrected the legislation before the Senate adjourned to be considered again before the session ends. Lawmakers will reconvene Monday morning.





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