In a weekly update to constituents, State Sen. J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler) announced on Monday that three of his election-related bills recently passed the Senate floor.
“Several of my bills that focus on improving our elections process by speeding up ballot tabulation, while preserving accuracy, security, and transparency, have now passed the Senate and are advancing to the House,” Mesnard shared.
"…she vetoed all of these, revealing that we're working with a Governor who is playing political games with lives and livelihoods."
Read more in this week's edition of the "The Right Note" with Senator @jdmesnard. pic.twitter.com/O91c21QHG0
— AZSenateRepublicans (@AZSenateGOP) March 13, 2023
The first of Mesnard’s bills, Senate Bill (SB) 1595, passed on March 7th. Should the bill become law, it would change how early ballots could be dropped off during an election. Specifically, if someone tried to drop off an early ballot at a polling location after 7:00 pm on the Friday before an election, that voter must provide proper identification when delivering their ballot. Moreover, if a voter drops off a ballot without the appropriate ID, that voter must present their documentation to the county recorder within five days of delivering the ballot.
However, when it came time to vote on the bill, State Sen. Priya Sundareshan (D-Tucson) voiced some concerns. She argued that the bill would add “hurdles or hurdles” to Arizonans trying to vote, which the legislature should be avoiding. Nonetheless, Mesnard argued that this bill is a commonsense way of speeding up the amount of time it takes to get results in an election.
“The factor [that causes results to take a long time to come out] is the signature verification that takes place for those dropping their ballots off on election day. We saw a record number [of drop offs] in the last election. That’s why it took weeks to get to the final result,” Mesnard said. “All this does is say if you’re going to be [drop off] voting on or near election day, we’re going to treat you like everyone else on election day.”
As reported by The Arizona Sun Times, Mesnard stated his intent to introduce this legislation when the 2023 session first began.
His second bill, SB 1596, would require “a state county, city, town or school district” to provide space for a polling location if the official in charge of the election requests them to. Under current Arizona law, election officials can ask a public school to use its campus as a polling location, but the school can deny the use of its campus within two weeks of the request being made. However, the bill would allocate $10 million from the general fund to the State Treasurer to give to counties that need more funds to set up additional polling locations. Mesnard said this bill would allow for more public buildings to be used for elections.
“After all, these taxpayer-funded buildings are owned by the people, and I can think of little else as worthwhile as participating in our election process. This would also help ensure there are enough polling places to have precinct-based voting,” Mesnard said.
SB 1596 passed the Senate on March 2nd and will appear before the House Municipal Oversight & Elections Committee on the 15th.
Lastly, SB 1597 passed the Senate on March 7th. The bill would require counties with a population over 500,000 to provide an on-site tabulation machine for early ballots in at least one polling location per legislative district in the county. That way, people who want to have their early ballots tabulated on election day can have that option.
While these bills all passed the Senate, it was along party lines, and not one Democrat supported any of the three.
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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “J.D. Mesnard” by J.D. Mesnard. Background Photo “Arizona Capitol” by Wars. CC BY-SA 3.0.