An Arizona Republican lawmaker on Friday defended a GOP-sponsored bill that would change the mail-in voting process by arguing that state lawmakers need to “correct problems” regardless of whether there was actual fraud in the 2020 election.
Arizona GOP lawmakers have put forth a bill, SB 1485, that would revise the state’s permanent early voting list that allows a voter to automatically be sent a ballot by mail for every election. The bill has since stalled, but could be revived.
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If the bill is passed, thousands of voters would be at risk of being removed from the list – particularly rural and disabled voters, seniors, voters of color, unaffiliated voters and Native American voters on tribal lands, according to voting rights advocates and Democrats. But the bill’s proponents argue the legislation will maintain the accuracy of the early voting list and prevent fraud by ensuring that ballots aren’t mailed to those who have moved, died or don’t want them.
“We’re moving forward to do bills to correct problems that came up during the election that need to be solved, regardless of whether there was actual fraud or nonexistent fraud,” State Rep. John Kavanagh, the state Senate’s former president pro tempore, told CNN’s Brianna Keilar on “New Day” Friday.
Keilar asked Kavanagh why automatically receiving a ballot should be dependent on whether someone has participated in a recent election or not.
“We want them to continue to get the ballot, but we want to make sure that they are actually there,” Kavanagh replied, suggesting the issue is that ballots get sent to voters who move and don’t notify county election officials.
“What evidence do you have that that has led to voter fraud?” Keilar then asked. “You’re solving a problem that doesn’t exist and, in the process, purging people from the list.”
“That’s not true,” Kavanagh said.
The measure, however, would remove voters who did not vote in the previous two election cycles and don’t respond to final mailed notices. Voters will be allowed to sign up again if they were removed from the early voting list.
Kavanagh claimed that the bill would result in preventing “erroneous removals more than we prevent ballots that have mismatched signatures on Election Day from being counted. It’s a very robust check.”
Kavanagh had previously told CNN that “not everybody wants to vote, and if somebody is uninterested in voting, that probably means that they’re totally uninformed on the issues.”
“Quantity is important, but we have to look at the quality of votes, as well,” he told CNN last month.
Pressed by Keilar on his comment Friday, Kavanagh said, “I don’t think we should send ballots if they are not interested. But if they are interested in voting, I would never stop somebody from voting.”
The Arizona bills are part of a push by Republican-controlled legislatures in several states to advocate for strict new voting laws spurred by former President Donald Trump and his backers’ sowing doubt and spreading baseless claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election.
SB 1485 had been expected to receive final approval in the GOP-led Arizona Senate before it could be sent to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey. But the legislation stalled Thursday after state GOP Sen. Kelly Townsend said she would vote against the bill pending a Republican-backed audit of Maricopa County’s 2.1 million 2020 election ballots.
The audit was expected to begin on Friday despite the 2020 election results already undergoing multiple reviews that found no evidence of widespread fraud and that were ultimately certified by state election officials. But in a last-minute attempt to stop or at least delay the audit, lawyers for the Arizona Democratic Party and Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo, a Democrat, filed suit Thursday in Maricopa Superior Court, asking for an immediate restraining order.
On CNN, Kavanagh defended the audit and said he would be interested in seeing the outcome, but that he doesn’t believe it would reverse any election results.
“There are people who are concerned who claim that there are big irregularities and the Senate wants to do an audit to either substantiate that or put to bed and allay fears,” he said, adding it’s a “distraction” from the need to advance election bills.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect that Kavanagh is no longer serving as the Arizona state Senate’s president pro tempore.
CNN’s Kelly Mena, Dianne Gallagher, Stephanie Becker and Eric Bradner contributed to this report.