Among the vetoes recently handed out by Governor Katie Hobbs (D) was one for House Bill (HB) 2560, sponsored by House Speaker Ben Toma (R-Peoria) (pictured above, right), relating to ballot images.
Had this bill become law, it would have created a database of who in the state is registered to vote, who actually voted in the election, the ballot images from the election, and the cast vote record. This database would show if anyone voted who should not have and if any ballots were incorrectly approved by showing voters precisely what was certified. However, the record and images would not disclose who cast the vote.
This information would be published in an electronic portal overseen by the Arizona Secretary of State. Anyone who wishes to access the data must submit an application and provide identification. Part of this process is certifying that the individual accessing the database will not use the information for commercial use. Moreover, the list could not contain personally identifying information, such as social security, driver’s license number, or the voter’s signature. Anyone who is a secured registrant or on the Address Confidentiality Program would not be named on any voter lists but listed as a number.
However, despite the precautions, Hobbs ultimately turned the bill down. Hobbs wrote argued it would threaten anonymity and could create election misinformation. Additionally, Hobbs said creating and maintaining the database would burden election staff more during upcoming elections.
“I do not doubt that this bill is well-intentioned, but it is clear to me that it creates more harm than good for Arizona’s election officials and voters,” wrote Hobbs.
However, State Senator Ken Bennett (R-Prescott), the bill’s co-sponsor, released a statement Tuesday blasting Hobbs for what he called a disgraceful veto.
“In her veto letter, Hobbs claimed the bill ‘threatens anonymity and privacy’ and ‘opens the door to the spread of additional election mis- and dis-information.’ This couldn’t be further from the truth. There is nothing in this bill that would have disclosed information to threaten either. Voters’ identities would be protected. This bill would have helped eliminate mis- and dis-information and is a solution to this serious issue,” said Bennett.
— AZSenateRepublicans (@AZSenateGOP) May 23, 2023
Moreover, it was not just state Republicans pushing for this bill to pass. The Arizona Senate Majority Caucus shared three letters with reports from Democrat leaders nationwide, all of whom called on Hobbs to sign this bill.
For example, Nicole Fried, the chair of Florida’s Democratic Party, wrote to Hobbs that she is attempting to implement similar ballot image policies in her state. She also attested to the security of ballot images and that they do not reveal the voter’s identity.
“In my view, HB 2560 is the type of election reform that should be embraced by everyone involved in the election process. It should not be a partisan issue. This legislation is an example of good government and is precisely what we need now as we prepare for the important 2024 Elections,” Fried wrote in her letter.
Moreover, Democrat support for this legislation came from inside Arizona, as Secretary of State Adrian Fontes (D) also spoke in the bill’s favor. New York State Board of Elections Co-Chair Douglas Kellner (D) acknowledged this in his letter to Hobbs. Kellner wrote that he spoke with Fontes on the bill and said it was an easy way to increase confidence in elections.
“I couldn’t be more furious at the governor’s decision to disregard the need for complete transparency in our elections,” said Bennett. ” To increase voter confidence, we need to demystify the election process and allow the public the transparency it deserves. In order to have this in place by the 2024 elections, we need legislation signed this session, not a year from now.”
This bill was one of many Hobbs has vetoed in the past week.
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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Ben Toma” by Ben Toma. Photo “Katie Hobbs” by Governor Katie Hobbs. Background Photo “Arizona Capitol” by Hoozdoh. CC BY-SA 3.0.