Arizona House Republicans moved to advance two election-related bills, including when recounts can be initiated and about how mismatched signatures should be handled.
On Monday, the House approved an amendment to Senate Bill 1241 that would mandate county election authorities to refer mismatched signatures to the Attorney General’s office or county attorneys for a potential investigation. That bill passed 31–29 along party lines.
The other bill that passed, Senate Bill 1083, would expand the circumstances in which a recount would be initiated after a close election. Arizona’s current law stipulates that the margin of victory as to be within one-tenth of the 1 percent of the vote total between the top two candidates, or between 10 and 200 votes.
But Senate Bill 1083 would require a recount if the margin of victory is within 0.5 percent of the combined vote total, according to the text of the measure.
The bill was likely passed in response to President Joe Biden’s reported margin of victory over former President Donald Trump during last year’s general election. Officials declared Biden the winner after finding that he won by about 10,000 votes, or about 0.3 percent of the two candidates’ vote total.
Republican Rep. John Kavanagh, who sponsored the signature-match bill, said the measure would combat possible voter fraud. He noted that because nobody follows up on ballots with mismatching signatures, it needs to be addressed.
“That is almost the biggest yellow flag for voter fraud that I can think of—the signatures don’t match and you can’t contact the voter. There’s a chance there that that’s a fraudulent ballot. And that should be investigated,” he told the Arizona Mirror. “It’s easy to claim there’s no fraud in early ballots if you never look for fraud, even when it may be staring you right in the face.”
Alternatively, the lawmaker said the bill is necessary because state officials “don’t know what the scope of the problem is because right now nobody investigates potentially fraudulent ballots.”
State House Democrats, who voted against both measures, alleged that Republicans are perpetuating what they described as myths about rampant fraud during elections.
“The assumption is going to be made that you were fraudulently casting that ballot and the attorney general is going to get involved,” said Rep. Kelli Butler, a Democrat, as reported by The Associated Press. “I believe that’s going to intimidate voters. I can’t imagine having a knock on my door from law enforcement related to my vote.”
Both election bills require the approval of the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans.
It’s not clear if Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey will sign the measures into law. In late May, Ducey vetoed 22 bills that were passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature—including bills on election integrity and critical race theory.