Arizona Bill Would End Election Day Ballot Drop-Offs

By Bret Jaspers
Published: Thursday, January 17, 2019 - 4:54pm
Updated: Friday, January 18, 2019 - 9:21am
Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services
Michelle Ugenti-Rita in 2018.

A proposal in the Arizona Legislature would stop people from dropping off their mail-in ballots on Election Day.

Counties allow voters on the mail-in list (called the Permanent Early Voting List) to also come in on Election Day and drop off their ballots. In November, about 168,000 people did this in Maricopa County. Those ballots took about two weeks to count.

In response, state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale) has proposed a bill saying if you get a ballot by mail, you must return the ballot by mail. No voting day drop-offs or dropping off ballots at early voting locations.

She thinks the wait for election results was too long and undermined people’s trust in the election.

“There’s an expectation that there’s going to be a timely response,” she said. “This doesn’t dictate a time period, but it will go a long way to make sure that there’s a timely result.”

Ugenti-Rita also proposed requiring people who vote via “emergency” ballot — after 5 p.m. on the Friday before Election Day and before 5 p.m. on the Monday before Election Day — to sign a sworn affidavit describing the emergency. Early voting centers were a source of controversy in wake of the 2018 election.

Voting rights advocates say ending voting day drop-offs would create an unnecessary barrier.

Josselyn Berry, co-director of ProgressNow Arizona, said busy people take advantage of dropping off their mail-in ballot. “It’s just going to make things a lot more difficult for voters,” she said. “It’s going to increase long lines, it’s going to just slow down the process even more.”

Berry’s group wants a Voters’ Bill of Rights enshrined into the state constitution so voting restrictions could be better contested in court. Lawmakers in her coalition also plan to introduce a bill for same-day voter registration.