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Senate OKs several election law changes, but 3 fail

March 8, 2022 GMT

PHOENIX (AP) — The Arizona Senate on Monday approved several revisions to the state’s election laws but three were rejected when majority Republicans failed to muster the needed 16 votes.

The rejection of the three bills is a sign that many of dozens of Republican-sponsored election law changes set for Senate votes in the coming days are likely to face trouble getting past at least one GOP senator.

Republican Sen. Paul Boyer said before the vote that he has trouble with many of the bills, and his was the key vote in blocking those that failed Monday.

“I’m a firm no – if it’s bad policy I’m not horse trading,” he told The Associated Press.

One no vote from a GOP senator marks the end for any bill that can’t garner Democratic support in the chamber where Republicans hold just a one-vote majority. And minority Democrats are universally opposed to scores of election law revisions that GOP legislators are pushing this year. They are making the push in the name of election integrity after former President Donald Trump claimed without evidence that he lost Arizona in 2020 because of fraud.

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The bills that got Boyer’s backing on Monday were relatively tame — one makes it a felony to help someone from outside Arizona register to vote, another requires the Legislature’s non-partisan legal team to review the manual that guides election workers, and a third requires courts to send monthly reports of people convicted of felonies and who are no longer eligible to vote to election officials.

The ones that failed drew concerns from Boyer — and his no votes — were what he called bad policy that needlessly makes election work more difficult or what he called overreach.

He joined with Democrats and one other Republican to reject a bill that would have required counties that operate vote centers rather that precinct-based voting sites to separate ballots by precinct so a hand-count audit can be performed. He also voted against legislation that forbid election officials from requiring the use of a certain pens, which was designed to remedy the debunked theory that ink from felt-tipped “sharpies” bled through to the back side of ballots.

Those votes drew the ire of Republican Sen. Kelly Townsend of Apache Junction, a Trump supporter who has shepherded a host of election bills through the Senate Government Committee she chairs. She also is sponsoring many of this year’s Senate election bills.

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She was particularly upset after Boyer rejected a bill that expanded GOP Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s power by allowing him to investigate election issues for federal office, including Congress and presidential electors, and give him nearly unlimited subpoena power. The bill was requested and written by Brnovich’s office and also allows county prosecutors to investigate problems with federal office elections.

“If you have issues with the sponsor, I would ask you to reconsider your purpose for voting no,” she said. “Having not come to me, having not understood, you are voting no on the attorney general’s bill.”

After staying silent when Townsend previously noted his lack of support, Boyer explained his vote on that bill, noting it raised issues of conflict with federal laws and gave the attorney power to demand documents and require testimony without showing any probable cause.

“The state attorney general doesn’t have authority over federally election officials. It’s for a reason.” Boyer said. “This is a massive power shift to the county attorneys and the attorney general.”