A bill that would stop some voters from getting a ballot automatically mailed to them each election failed unexpectedly in Arizona’s state Senate Thursday after a single Republican joined Democrats in voting against the legislation.
GOP state Sen. Kelly Townsend explained her surprise “no” vote on the state Senate floor amid a tense episode that saw the senator get into a heated confrontation with the bill’s sponsor and the pair attempt to silence each other with parliamentary rules.
“I am for this bill, but I am not voting for it until after the audit,” she said, referring to an audit orchestrated by Senate Republicans of the 2020 election results in Maricopa County reportedly set to get underway this week. President Joe Biden narrowly won the state.
Townsend added that other election-related bills had not been advanced. “We have no business fast tracking everything and going home.”
The bill’s sponsor, Republican state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, said on the floor it was “disappointing to be on the receiving end of someone’s temper tantrum.”
The legislation, which passed the House earlier this week, had come under fire from Democrats, voting rights groups and business leaders in the state. It needs approval from the state Senate to head to GOP Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk.
Senate Bill 1485 would remove infrequent voters from the state’s Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL), turning it into an “active” early voting list. Counties would have be required remove voters from the early voting list in odd-numbered years if they do not cast a ballot by mail for two consecutive election cycles and do not respond to a notice from election officials within 90 days.
S.B. 1485 is one of at least 22 restrictive election bills under consideration this year in Arizona, with more than half the bills targeting mail voting. Another bill that would add voter ID requirements to mail ballots, S.B. 1713, is still pending.
Business leaders, Democrats, and advocates protested this bill fiercely, with dozens of business leaders coming out against it and Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James tweeting about the bill Wednesday to his nearly 50 million Twitter followers.
Jane C. Timm
Jane C. Timm is a political reporter for NBC News.