We’re just a few weeks in and this legislative session has already been productive, especially when it comes to trying to improve the way we run elections in Arizona. As the Chairman of the new Senate Elections Committee, I have introduced a number of bills that are aimed at increasing efficiency and overcoming the many obstacles our election system faces. I am proud to have introduced several vitally important measures that will streamline our election system, reduce fraud and create greater transparency regarding lobbyists and special interest groups.
In Tuesday’s Senate Elections Committee hearing, we heard SB 1332 which passed with only one ‘no’ vote. This bill is a bi-partisan effort that increases the frequency of lobbyist reporting from quarterly to monthly. In addition, the legislation clarifies and further defines “gifts” when used in the context of lobbying. The bill also addresses the need to hold lobbyists and officials accountable by imposing a criminal penalty for those who knowingly violate these rules.
I also introduced SB 1263, which requires paid signature circulators to register with the Arizona Secretary of State’s office prior to collecting signatures for ballot initiatives. Arizona law currently requires that a petition circulator must be eligible to register to vote at the time they are collecting signatures. However, in several instances petition circulators have provided false information related to their residence or criminal history allowing them to skirt the law.
Current statute has no means for enforcement, so SB 1263 addresses these short-comings by requiring all paid petition circulators to undergo a background check and register with the Secretary of State’s office. This legislation does not apply to volunteer petition circulators.
In addition to promoting transparency and accountability, we worked to create a more efficient means for tabulating ballots and ensuring results are announced in a timely manner. Arizona drew national attention in the last election when the state was overwhelmed with provisional ballots, which resulted in a long delay in tabulating official results.
I’m very optimistic that these efforts will pass the full Senate and that we will have new laws in place to guarantee our election process is straightforward and efficient going forward. These bills are just a few of the steps I have taken toward improving elections in Arizona, and so far, I’m happy with the results. I will continue to work hard on voter education, improving access to voting, and making Arizona an efficient model for other states to follow in future elections.