Ducey vetoes election bill, says it could allow 'bad actors' to cancel voter registrations

Gov. Doug Ducey gives a briefing on wildfire safety at the state Capitol on March 31, 2022, in Phoenix, Ariz.
Ray Stern
Arizona Republic

Gov. Doug Ducey on Friday vetoed a bill — his first of the year — that would have increased cancellations of voter registrations because he was concerned it was "vulnerable to bad actors."

In a lengthy veto letter, Ducey outlined several provisions in House Bill 2617 that he asked the Legislature to bring back in a new bill this session.

The Republican governor, who leaves office in January, has signed 25 election- or voting-related bills since last year, maintaining a balancing act in which he opposes measures based on Trump-inspired allegations of massive voter fraud in 2020 while trying to appease Republicans across the state who want changes to the election system. 

He began his letter with a nod to the idea that voting should be easy to do but made "difficult for anyone to cheat."

Still, after he was criticized in March for signing House Bill 2492 — which requires all Arizonans to prove their citizenship if they want to vote in a statewide race or presidential election, a condition which some say is unconstitutional — his veto shows that Ducey is willing to push back, at least a little, on election bills he doesn't like.  

House Bill 2617, sponsored by Rep. Joseph Chaplik, R-Scottsdale, and co-sponsored by 26 other Republican lawmakers, passed the House and Senate along party lines. It would have required county recorders to cancel a person's voter registration if they receive information that the person isn't a U.S. citizen, moved out of the county or for any other reason isn't qualified to vote in Arizona.

Arizona House Rep. Joseph Chaplik, R-Scottsdale speaks to an enthusiastic crowd outside Coronado High School in Scottsdale on Nov. 30, 2021.

Government agencies and courts would have had to turn over driver's license and address changes to each of Arizona's 15 county recorder's office and also check registration rolls against various databases every month.

Allowing county recorders to use such information to determine voting eligibility is a "vague" standard without clear guidance on how the agency would confirm the information, Ducey said in the letter.

"Our lawfully registered voters deserve to know that their right to vote will not be disturbed without sufficient due process," Ducey said. "This provision leaves our election system vulnerable to bad actors who could seek to falsely allege a voter is not a qualified elector."

The other problem with the bill is that while the citizenship and age of voters are objectively verifiable, determining exactly where a person lives "can be a fact specific inquiry," Ducey said. "The subjectivity of this provision, as well as a lack of guardrails against false claims, included in H.B. 2617 leaves voter registration susceptible to being canceled based on fiction rather than fact."

Still, Ducey said other provisions in the bill are worthy to be passed into law. For instance, he wants the Arizona Department of Transportation to notify the Secretary of State's Office when a voter receives an out-of-state driver's license. Ducey also wants to require that counties get notified when prospective jurors tell a court they aren't citizens; require the state to notify counties when a voter moves to a new address or are no longer a U.S. citizen; and require the Secretary of State's Office to compile quarterly reports about deceased voters that it would send to the Legislature.

Chaplik didn't immediately return a text or phone message seeking comment.

Other bills signed by Ducey

Ducey signed several other bills Friday, including two related to elections:

House Bill 2236, sponsored by Rep Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, prohibits an agency, department or division of Arizona or someone acting on the agency's behalf to register a person to vote unless the person affirmatively requests they do so.

House Bill 2703, sponsored by Rep. Shawnna Bolick, R-Phoenix, prevents the secretary of state from "removing, closing down or otherwise limiting access to the secure internet portal and related systems for online signature collection."

In non-election related action, Ducey signed House Bill 2371, also sponsored by Bolick, requiring parental permission before any government entity can require a vaccine for anyone under age 18. It appears to provide an exception to a bill Ducey signed in April that prevents any vaccine requirement imposed by a taxpayer-funded arm of government.

House Bill 2343, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Payne, R-Peoria, requires people to leave a crime scene if ordered to by a law enforcement officer, with violators risking a Class 2 misdemeanor charge.

House Bill 2049, sponsored by Rep. Justin Wilmeth, R-Phoenix, requires fingerprinting of contracted workers or volunteers who "provide direct support services at a residential care institution, nursing care institution or home health agency."

Arizona Republic reporters Stacey Barchenger and Mary Jo Pitzl contributed to this article.

Reach the reporter at rstern@arizonarepublic.com or 480-276-3237. Follow him on Twitter @raystern.

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