Voter bill Randy Perez with Lucha speaks out against HB 2268|Photo screenshot

Despite opposition from voting advocates and state agencies, including the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office, the bill passed along party lines.

Arizona Republican lawmakers approved a bill Wednesday that would create a “voter fraud hotline” through the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. Opponents of the bill say it could create fear and intimidation, especially among minority voters.

The debate on the floor of the the House of Representatives over HB 2268 got heated as opponents argued over the proposed bill. If enacted, it would create a hotline for the public to submit complaints of suspected election irregularities. The measure also would allow investigators with the attorney general’s office to enter polling places, voting centers, or counting centers while they are in use to investigate criminal complaints.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, claims the hotline and law enforcement power expansion are necessary to combat voter fraud, and noted that the use of similar practices in foreign nations, including Russia, are the justification for her bill. She also claims it will not impact minority voters.

“We hear nothing but claims of voter and election interference from overseas and within, and that the chances of something happening are high,” Townsend said. “But here in Arizona, we should do nothing and leave it as it is. I find that interesting.”

Democratic lawmakers and Latino voting advocates, however, say otherwise.

Earlier this month, Randy Perez with LUCHA Arizona said he is “concerned about the origins of this bill and the conspiracy theory that essentially exists among folks, especially the bill’s sponsor, around voter fraud as a widespread problem.”

He added that the theory is “disingenuous to voters across the state,” and is more in tune with a conversation that should take place in 1866 Reconstruction – not in 2020.

“We need to be working to empower voters in our communities,” he reiterated. Democratic lawmakers echoed Perez’s sentiment on the House floor before Wednesday’s vote.

Rep. Jennifer Jermaine, D-Chandler, said, “This is not the right time to roll out brand new procedures for a general election.” Rep. Athena Salman, D-Tempe, agreed, saying that she too fears the measure could have “a disparate impact on communities of color,” especially with the presence of law enforcement at polling places, which could intimidate communities already fearful of police.

The Arizona Mirror noted that conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation, found 20 cases of voter fraud in Arizona from 2009 – 2016, and the majority of those cases dealt with duplicate voting. This occurs when a person votes in more than one jurisdiction or state. Only two of the 20 cases uncovered by the Heritage Foundation involved false registration.

Townsend, however, remained firm and said, “If we are not committing voter fraud, then what are we worried about?”

Despite concerns and opposition, including from elections officials, the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office, the Arizona Association of Counties, and Arizona Secretary of State’s Office, the bill passed 31-29 along party lines and will move on to the state Senate for a vote.