Things got heated in the House Judiciary Committee today.
The committee heard a bill to repeal HB 2305, an omnibus elections reform bill that would make it a crime for political operatives to collect and turn in early ballots, make it easier to remove voters from the permanent early-voter list, make it harder for third-party candidates to get on the ballot and create new barriers for getting an initiative on the ballot.
Rep. Farnsworth (R-12) started the meeting on the defensive, with an on the record claim that he will not try to reintroduce the bill in parts.
“I have no knowledge of any concerted effort to break this bill apart and start running them through,” Farnsworth said.
However, his statement was hardly a promise to let the bill die after it’s repealed.
“It doesn’t mean it won’t happen, doesn’t mean individuals won’t sponsor pieces, I still believe very firmly that there are pieces in here that have to be addressed.”
That was a major issue for people who came to talk in opposition to the bill. While they supported the reform in principle, they couldn’t trust that the legislature still wouldn’t try to pass the bill.
“While I do understand what your intent is, but you’re one vote,” said Sandy Bahr, the chapter director for the Sierra Club in Arizona.
The more people that questioned the intent of the legislature, the more defensive Farnsworth became.
“There is no nefarious intent that I’m aware of. There’s no concerted effort. There’s no scheming going on that I’m aware of, or that I’m a part of,” Farnsworth said.
Rep. Ethan Orr (R-9) was on the fence about the repeal when the bill was postponed last week so that Farnsworth could adjust the language. In order for Orr to vote yes, he spent the week getting assurances that the bill would not be reintroduced.
“My concern has always been what comes afterwards,” Orr said, “What I told my leadership is, frankly, if we say we’re abiding by the will of the voters and then a week later do the exact opposite, then we’re lying to the voters.”
The bill passed along party lines with 4-2, with two representatives absent.