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Arizona legislation would give AG control of voter fraud

February 26, 2020 GMT

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Republicans are advancing legislation that would give the attorney general control over reports of suspected voter fraud and allow police at polling places — a measure Democrats charge will lead to intimidation of voters of color.

The measure would create a new telephone number and website run by the attorney general to take reports of suspected voting fraud. State and county election officials, who have traditionally managed accusations of misconduct, would be required to refer any calls or reports to the attorney general.

Law enforcement officers would gain the explicit authority to enter polling places and question anyone on site.

Democrats said Republicans are scaremongering, noting there have been only a handful of voting fraud cases despite millions of votes cast. They warned that the measure would likely lead to unfounded complaints of fraud, prompting a police response that would intimidate voters, especially in minority neighborhoods.

“This is all an attack on our democracy that results in voter suppression,” said Rep. Athena Salman, a Tempe Democrat.

Republicans said the measure it would create one destination for people to point out suspected election irregularities and increase their confidence in the integrity of elections.

“This doesn’t chill a voter,” said Rep. Kelly Townsend, a Gilbert Republican who wrote the legislation. “In fact this increases confidence which then brings people to the polls.

Rep. John Kavanagh, a Republican from Fountain Hills, said only lawbreakers should have anything to fear.

“Police officers are welcome in our society as people who maintain order and protect people from voter intimidation at polling places,” Kavanagh said. “This is a welcome addition to the law.”

Election administrators said the measure is unnecessary and would likely confuse voters by creating one more portal for election information. The secretary of state, currently Democrat Katie Hobbs, already runs a hotline where callers can get information about voting or report fraud. Suspected illegal activity is referred to county prosecutors for investigation.

The House approved the measure in a 31-29 party-line vote late Tuesday, sending the measure to the Senate, where Republicans also have a majority.

Rep. Charlene Fernandez of Yuma, the top Democrat in the House, said the Republican-controlled Legislature is constantly looking to make it harder for people to vote. She said she looks forward to a time when “people who live in this state and are citizens of this country can vote freely in our elections with no fear of being arrested or pointed out or investigated.”