State Senator Kelly Townsend Wants to Invalidate Mailed-In Ballots

The Arizona State Capitol.EXPAND
The Arizona State Capitol.
Gage Skidmore
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Another day, another bill pushed by Republican Arizona lawmakers that would restrict early voting in the state.

State Senator Kelly Townsend, who represents Arizona's 16th Legislative District, has introduced a bill mandating that voters who receive their ballot by mail must return it in person.

The bill, SB 1503, requires that voters who receive an early ballot by mail may only return it by "delivering it by hand to a designated voting location." It would also mandate that any "early ballots that are received by mail are invalid and may not be processed" by election officials.

Townsend, the bill's sponsor, did not respond to New Times' request for comment. But the east Valley lawmaker  has routinely given voice to the conspiracy theories that the 2020 election was stolen from former Republican President Donald Trump. In early December, she asked Republican Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich to investigate allegations of voter fraud, but he ultimately declined.

Critics say the legislation is the latest in a string of bills that seek to undermine Arizona's popular early voting system after Democrats President Joe Biden and Senator Mark Kelly won Arizona in the 2020 election. Democratic voters significantly outperformed Republicans in early voting before the November 3 election.

Other legislation introduced this year would eliminate early voting entirely, mandate that voters get the envelopes for their mail-in ballots notarized, and kick voters off the state's permanent early voting list if they don't vote in two consecutive election cycles.

"It's absolutely voter suppression," said Emily Kirkland, executive director of Progress Arizona. "This really is a serious attack on people’s ability to participate in our democracy."

She added that Republican lawmakers are "trying to put obstacles in the way of" people voting in Arizona elections.

Townsend's bill hasn't been assigned to a committee yet, but some of the other legislation is making progress. HB 2369, the bill requiring that mail-in ballots be notarized, has been assigned. And SB 1069, which would purge the permanent early voting list of voters who don't vote in two consecutive elections, passed out of committee last week.

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