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Arizona mail-in voting bill stalls in Senate amid heated debate between GOP lawmakers

The legislation in question, SB 1485, would revise the state’s permanent early voting list, which allows a voter to automatically receive a ballot by mail for every election. It would remove voters who have not participated in the last four elections, including partisan primaries, and also don’t respond to final mailed notices. Voters would be allowed to sign up again if they were removed from the list.

A part of an ongoing Republican-led effort to restrict voting across the country, the bill passed the state House earlier this week and had previously been approved by Arizona’s Senate. Because it was amended in the House, it required final approval in the upper chamber before it could be sent to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.

The legislation was expected to get final passage in the GOP-led state Senate. But after coming back to the Senate floor from caucusing on changes to the legislation, GOP Sen. Kelly Townsend said she was voting against the legislation and any other election bills pending a Republican-backed audit of some of the state’s mail-in ballots from the 2020 presidential election.

The so-called audit ordered by the Republican-controlled Senate is expected to begin on Friday despite the election results already undergoing multiple reviews that found no evidence of widespread fraud and ultimately being certified by state election officials. The audit has become highly controversial, with complaints from both the county and the secretary of state’s office.

“I have communicated to the whip, to the caucus, that I am not going to be voting on any election integrity bills from this point forward until after we have results that come from the audit,” Townsend said.

Townsend argued that she wanted to wait for the results of the Senate’s audit of Maricopa County’s 2020 ballots before she would vote for the legislation. She said she wanted legislation to address any issues that may come up amid the review of the 2.1 million ballots.

The expected “no” vote by Townsend effectively killed the bill for now and prompted personal jabs from bill sponsor GOP Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, who called Townsend’s action a “temper tantrum.”

That drew a sharp response from Townsend.

“I mean it when I say, I am committed to fixing the problems in this election system in Arizona, even if it means my name is in red on this board, and you guys can say it’s a temper tantrum,” she said. “Absolutely I am upset about all of my election bills dead. Absolutely I’m upset. You want to see a temper tantrum, I will show you one if you really want to see it, but I will not.”

“The reason I am voting no on this bill is because I have given my commitment to my constituents that we will fix all election integrity, not just this issue,” she added.

Ugenti-Rita then voted against her own bill, in a move that allows the senator to bring the legislation forward again.

The bill failed on a vote of 14-16.

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