PHOENIX — It’s official: Arizonans won’t get the last word on a series of controversial changes in state election law.
Without comment, Gov. Jan Brewer signed legislation Thursday to repeal the 2013 law, which also served to kill the referendum drive that had held up enactment until the voters made the final decision.
Foes of the changes gathered more than 146,000 signatures on petitions to put the law on “hold” pending the election.
The changes included limiting who can take someone else’s early ballot to polling places, erecting some new procedural hurdles in the path of citizens proposing their own laws, and requiring minor parties to get far more signatures to get their candidates on the ballot.
Republicans said the repeal was simply obeying the will of voters who made it clear they did not like one or more portions of the 2013 law.
But opponents of the law fear the move was an end run by Republicans, killing the referendum and freeing the GOP majority to re-enact all or part of what was in the original law.
Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, who led the repeal effort, said he has no plans to do so.
But Farnsworth could not make that promise for other Republicans.
And House Speaker Andy Tobin said he believes some portions of what was in that 2013 law, like allowing county officials to remove some people from the permanent early-voting list, may have merit.
The concern is those who sign up for the list are automatically mailed ballots before every election. Voters can mark them and mail them back or take them to a polling place.
Some county recorders have complained that some voters ignore the ballots mailed to them and instead show up at polling places on Election Day. That requires them to vote a “provisional ballot,” forcing election officials to go through the time-consuming check to be sure that an early ballot was not also returned.
Foes of the change said that problem could be resolved through better voter education.
Other changes in the original law that could now be re-enacted include:
- Changing the rules that govern voter-proposed initiatives to require stricter compliance with rules.
- Barring members of certain groups from collecting early ballots from voters and taking them directly to polling places.
- Sharply boosting the number of signatures necessary for Libertarian and Green party candidates to qualify for the ballot. Backers of this change contend “ringers” are using easy access to the ballot to steal votes from legitimate candidates.