Jan 24, 2024 - News

Negotiations underway on legislation to fix election deadline issue from recount law

Illustration of a hand casting a ballot into a calendar

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Lawmakers, Gov. Katie Hobbs and election officials across the state are working on legislation to resolve issues caused by a 2022 law that expanded the use of mandatory recounts, but it's unclear when a deal might come together or what it would entail.

Catch up quick: Following Donald Trump's narrow loss to Joe Biden in Arizona in 2020, Republican legislators passed a law in 2022 to widen the margin of victory that would trigger recounts.

  • Previously, automatic recounts happened only when the margin was 0.1% of total votes cast, or 200 ballots in a statewide race, 50 ballots in a legislative race or 10 ballots in a local race.
  • Under the 2022 law, elections decided by 0.5% or less of the total votes cast must go to a recount.
  • Biden's 10,457-vote win in 2020 didn't trigger a recount but would've under the new threshold.

Why it matters: If the presidential election in Arizona goes to a recount, it could drag on past a Dec. 11 presidential elector deadline established by the federal Electoral Count Reform Act of 2022.

Driving the news: Jen Marson, executive director of the Arizona Association of Counties, tells Axios Phoenix there are three main sticking points:

  • Moving up the primary date.
  • Shortening the period to "cure" early ballots — to verify voter signatures that don't appear to match official records.
  • Addressing the delays caused by the large number of early ballots that voters drop off on Election Day.

Details: Marson said the solutions being proposed include:

  • Moving the primary up a week, from Aug. 6 to July 30;
  • Reducing the number of curing days for early ballots from five business days to five calendar days after the election;
  • Republicans have advocated for requiring voters who drop off early ballots on Election Day to show ID at the polls, saying it would eliminate the need for the lengthy signature verification process, which has caused long delays that have put Arizona in the national spotlight in recent elections.

Zoom in: Republicans have resisted moving the primary, but Senate President Warren Petersen is open to the idea, spokesperson Kim Quintero tells Axios Phoenix.

  • Meanwhile, Hobbs spokesperson Christian Slater says the governor opposes shortening the curing period because she "refuses to disenfranchise Arizona voters" and that "rolling back" the recount law should be considered first.
  • Requiring voters to show ID when they drop off "late early" ballots would also cause logistics problems for some counties, Marson says.

Between the lines: Senate President Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, told the Arizona Republic that lawmakers would approve the changes in a special session that would run concurrently with the regular session.

  • He said Hobbs would call the special session "the second we have an agreement" and that an agreement is "close but not there yet."

The intrigue: Marson says election officials need any fix to be passed by early February says it'll likely need a two-thirds supermajority in each chamber so it can go into effect immediately.


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