PHOENIX – When it comes to telling the truth about Arizona’s virtually non-existent voter fraud one powerful Arizona Senator just can’t shoot straight. Sen. Don Shooter continues to distort and exaggerate a 2010 early vote project in his Yuma district to scare Republicans into supporting his bill to make volunteer ballot collections a crime.
Election officials, including then Secretary of State Ken Bennett, determined that there was no wrong-doing or broken laws surrounding the Yuma get-out-the-vote effort in 2010. Yet Shooter repeated the debunked story on Wednesday while testifying on behalf of a strike-all amendment to Senate Bill 1339 which would make it a felony for voluntary civic engagement organizations to turn in early ballots for voters who are unable to drop them off or mail them on time – often in heavily Latino neighborhoods. The canvasses are effective because many voters hold onto their ballots while trying to make their decisions, and if they mail them within four days of Election Day they won’t arrive in time and the votes won’t be counted.
If passed SB1339 would potentially prevent thousands of low-income, young and homebound elderly voters from casting ballots in the 2016. Republican incumbent politicians clearly see these roadblocks for progressive-leaning voters as vital to their long-term future given their extreme maneuvering – and in Shooter’s case outright distortions — to get it passed. House leaders will try to strong-arm the bill through a floor debate on Monday.
Shooter’s most recent distortion occurred on Wednesday when he testified before the House Appropriations Committee that members of several unions collected “5,500 some odd” Permanent Early Voting List requests for early ballots in Yuma during his first run for office, turning them in just before the deadline. Shooter then told committee members that “only 2,000” of those requests were valid. His testimony can be seen here. House Minority Leader Eric Meyer quickly pointed out to Shooter that his anecdote was not germane because his SB1339 criminalizes helping voters turn in early ballots and doesn’t address early ballot requests at all.
Shooter’s story was not only irrelevant, it was also wrong.
Francisco Heredia, executive director of One Arizona, led the 2010 door-to-door GOTV effort in Yuma as then head of Mi Familia Vota. Heredia confirmed that his canvassers turned in about 3,000 Permanent Early Voter List requests not 5,500. And those requests were collected and handed in over the course of several weeks, not all at the last minute. Of those, about 900 or 45 percent, were ultimately invalidated by the Yuma County Recorder, in most cases because the voters were already on the Permanent Early Voter List. They were simply duplicate requests, which are easily caught and corrected by election officials, Heredia said.
“The County Recorder in Yuma and Secretary of State Ken Bennett both confirmed that no voter received more than one ballot and that no ineligible voters were registered,” said Heredia. “Nothing illegal or even controversial happened. But Senator Shooter keeps distorting this story in order to scare his colleagues into making criminals out idealistic young campaign volunteers and disenfranchising thousands of eligible voters, mostly in Latino communities.”
This wasn’t the first time Shooter repeated his tall tale. Earlier this session he told an even taller version. During the February 18 Senate Government hearing on an earlier iteration of Shooter’s bill, he claimed that the 2010 Yuma GOTV effort turned in more than 5,000 VOTES at the deadline, not early ballot requests. Watch here as Sen. Martin Quezada checks Shooter and forces him to admit his story is not true.
Shooter and Republican Secretary of State Michele Reagan are pushing for the voter roadblocks in an effort to recreate — piece by piece — the notorious House Bill 2305 from 2013. That four-part attack on voters also included legislation to criminalize door-to-door early ballot pickups. The Protect Your Right to Vote Coalition, made up of more than 28 organizations, collected over 146,000 signatures in eight weeks that summer to refer HB2305 to the 2014 ballot. Rather than face the voters’ wrath, frightened legislators instead repealed HB2305 last session. But now they are back trying to sneak its parts into law ahead of the 2016 Presidential election where Arizona could come into play as a swing state.
“Politicians like Michele Reagan and Don Shooter are terrified of the demographic changes happening in Arizona, which is growing younger and more diverse every day,” said former House Minority Leader John Loredo, who helped lead the Protect Your Right to Vote effort. “More than 146,000 voters spoke loud and clear on this. But they are afraid of a system where voters pick their politicians. They want to codify a system where politicians pick their voters.”