PHOENIX — The Arizona Senate on Wednesday voted down a plan to require the state auditor general to conduct an exhaustive review following every election.
It was one of four election bills that failed on Wednesday because they had insufficient support from Republicans, and Democrats were united in opposition. Three others were killed on Monday as the Legislature culls the dozens of election bills Republicans introduced this year, many in response to former President Donald Trump's conspiracy theories claiming the 2020 election was marred by widespread fraud.
The audit bill would have appropriated nearly $4 million a year for a staff of 29.25 full-time equivalent positions to conduct an audit of nearly every aspect of the election in Maricopa and Pima counties as well as two randomly selected smaller counties.
The bill would have essentially made the Senate Republicans' 2020 election review a permanent fixture following elections, but would have put it in the hands of a respected government agency.
GOP Senate leaders hired a team of Trump supporters to conduct a widely mocked “forensic audit" of the election that the former president disputes without evidence. The review claimed to find a number of irregularities, but most turned out to have innocuous explanations.
“This sets up a process to make sure that the laws are being followed,” Sen. Sonny Borrelli, a Republican from Lake Havasu City, said with anger as it became clear the bill would fail. “Our citizens demand it. They're entitled to it. The elections belong to them, not to us.”
Borrelli cited a number of GOP grievances with President Joe Biden, including gas prices, U.S. service members killed during the pullout from Afghanistan, and immigration, saying “elections have consequences.”
The measure failed when all 14 Democrats and two Republicans voted against it, Sens. Paul Boyer of Glendale and Michelle Ugenti-Rita of Scottsdale. Both have been publicly critical of their party's election review, which they said was flawed and incompetent.
Boyer said the bill would saddle the auditor general with an expensive, unnecessary task and could potentially detract from its existing duties of auditing government agencies.
The bill also would have required the public release of ballot images stored by the machines that count them and made changes to the procedures for keeping voter registration rolls up to date.
Boyer and Ugenti-Rita also joined Democrats to defeat a separate bill making ballot images public records, which Ugenti-Rita said was duplicative of other legislation and would cause confusion. Other bills that failed include measures addressing the maintenance of voter rolls and the security of ballot machines.
Lawmakers did vote nearly unanimously to create a system allowing early voters to track the status of their ballot. Such a system already exists in Maricopa and Pima counties but is not available statewide. A bill making it easier for visually impaired votes to cast a mail ballot also passed without opposition.
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