There are so many reasons to be proud to live in the Grand Canyon State — from the “five Cs” I taught to my grade school students to the awe-inspiring scenery that makes us a world-renowned attraction.
As we mark our 109th birthday, I also want to take an opportunity to appreciate one more great thing about our state: voting by mail. For more than three decades, our state has run safe and secure elections where the vast majority of voters can cast a ballot from the comfort of their dining room table.
I love voting by mail, and I take pride in how well our state does it.
Arizona’s 2020 election, held in the midst of a global pandemic and an economic recession, is a shining example of how voting by mail can be done.
Despite everything, we turned out in record numbers. I can say without doubt that our election was conducted fairly, even though I personally didn’t win the contest to represent LD 23.
But it seems some of our state leaders don’t share my pride in the voting systems that made it possible for so many of us to have our voices heard.
Some, who were unhappy with the results of the presidential election, invented conspiracy theories and spun unfounded accusations with no evidence to back them up. They sowed doubt in our elections, stirred up violent threats against our hardworking election officials, and even contributed to anger that led to the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
And legislators haven’t stopped there. Fueled by this misinformation, Arizona’s legislators have introduced not one, not two, but six different bills designed to limit, restrict or outright dismantle voting by mail.
One of those bills, Senate Bill 1069, is sponsored by District 23’s own Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita. It would take Arizona voters off the Permanent Early Voting List if they don’t vote by mail for two consecutive election cycles. This bill is moving quickly through our state Senate right now.
When the Permanent Early Voting List was created, it was a big accomplishment for Arizona. It meant that any voter could sign up and receive a mail ballot for every election going forward.
But Sen. Ugenti-Rita apparently thinks any voter who missed an election or two doesn’t deserve to vote by mail.
There are lots of reasons why voters skip an election. Maybe they weren’t motivated by the issues or candidates on the ballot; maybe life events like military service made participation difficult; or maybe they just didn’t realize it was an election year.
None of those reasons should limit a voter’s ability to participate in the future, and they certainly don’t warrant an overbearing government deciding if they’re worthy of voting by mail.
If SB 1069 had passed before the 2020 election, more than 125,000 voters would have been purged from the Permanent Early Voting List and wouldn’t have received the ballot they ultimately cast. In LD 23 alone, about 4,000 voters would be removed from this list and would not receive a mail ballot for the next election.
What’s even more frustrating is that these changes do nothing to make our elections more secure.
Arizona’s reputation does a lot for us — it has made us a tourist attraction and a place where businesses come to invest. We’ve also become an example of how to do elections right.
Our state leaders need to think about the message these attacks on our election system send. We know too well the damage that can be done when legislators go too far. That’s why I am calling on you to raise your voices in support of our elections.
Whether you’re one of the 4,000 voters here who could have your rights restricted by SB 1069 or you’re simply someone who wants to maintain Arizona’s great reputation, contact your legislators today. Let them know you love to vote by mail.
They should stop trying to fix something that isn’t broken; and they definitely shouldn’t make it harder for Arizonans to have their voices heard.
Eric Kurland is a Scottsdale resident and was a candidate for Legislative District 23 state representative.
Editor’s note: SB 1069 did not make it out of committee. However, Arizona’s legislative structure allows bills already introduced to be resurrected at any time during the session in which they are introduced.