State of Democracy Spotlight Series: Arizona

Arizona’s Democracy Tally Rates Just Above Average

Following the 2020 election, Arizona has passed multiple restrictive voting laws, including restrictions on mail voting and bans on automatic and same-day voter registration. Despite these new laws, Arizona still ranks 21st in the nation in our Democracy Tally for its voting and election policies. The Democracy Maps track 45 election-related laws and policies, which inform this tally.

Above Average Access to Voting by Mail

Election Security Policies in Place

Despite rhetoric from some officials in the state that inaccurately alleged fraud, Arizona ranks highly in terms of election security.

  • Arizona could improve even further by implementing best-practice risk-limiting audits, which use statistical methods to analyze random samples of ballots and verify the accuracy of election results. (These kinds of audits are also independent and nonpartisan, and are in place in twelve states, including Colorado, Georgia, and Indiana.)
  • Even with Arizona’s high ranking on election security and policies in place to conduct legitimate independent audits, Republicans in the state legislature acted to jeopardize election security by conducting a partisan audit intended to cast doubt on election results.

Voter Registration

Arizona rates just below average in terms of voter registration policies.

Below Average Access to Representation and Participation

Arizona ranks below average in the categories of Representation and Participation policies.

  • Arizona is one of only 11 states categorized in our Democracy Maps as having the most restrictive policies related to the restoration of voting rights for formerly incarcerated people. The state requires that any fines and fees be paid in full before the right to vote is restored, and people with multiple felony convictions must petition the court to restore rights. People on parole or probation are not allowed to vote. The ACLU estimates that over 221,000 Arizonans are barred from voting due to their prior felony convictions, even though only 20% of those people are in prison. The margin in the 2020 presidential race in Arizona was just over 10,000 votes.

Independence and Integrity

Arizona rates below average in the categories of Independence and Integrity of elections.

In-Person Voting

Arizona rates just below average in the category of In-Person Voting.

  • The state’s shortfall is driven primarily by a strict non-photo ID requirement, where voters who do not have the required ID must take additional steps for their ballot to be counted. If the constitutional amendment on the ballot this fall passes, the state’s ID law will become even more strict by requiring photo ID.
  • Arizona does have some positive policies in place for in-person voting, including a strong early voting period, with 24 days of early voting. Early voting in Arizona began this week.

Arizona Has Been an Epicenter of Election Denialism and Conspiracies, Leading to Illegitimate Partisan Audit

Arizona became one of the focal points for election denial and false accusations of fraud following President Biden’s narrow victory in 2020. This effort was led in part by Republicans in the State Senate, who, following the election, brought in a partisan group called the Cyber Ninjas to conduct an “audit” of the results in Maricopa County. The so-called “audit” was not conducted under routine procedures and focused on sowing doubt on the election by partisan players who simply did not like the results of the election. It also cost taxpayers millions of dollars. These kinds of illegitimate partisan audits fly in the fact of best practices for election security. As noted above, Arizona already conducts independent, nonpartisan audits after elections.

Voters in Arizona Will Weigh in on Ballot Measure that Would Implement Restrictive Policies

Voters in Arizona will weigh in on a proposed constitutional amendment in November that would enact restrictive voter ID requirements for both in-person and mail voting. The measure was referred to the ballot by the state legislature as part of a trend by lawmakers in the state to implement restrictive voting policies. Strict voter ID laws that require a photo ID to cast an in-person ballot without alternatives have been shown to particularly impact communities of color. If passed, Arizona would join the ten states that currently have the most restrictive voter ID laws in the country.

Multiple Lawsuits Focus on Arizona’s Voter Registration Policies, as well as the Role of Poll Workers

Arizona has been the focus of election-related litigation on multiple fronts heading into the midterms, due in part to newly passed restrictive laws that impact voter registration. Two current lawsuits focus on voter registration requirements in the state.

Arizona is certainly a state to watch heading into the midterms, with voters deciding on a new senator, governor and secretary of state. Arizona had the closest margin of any state in the 2020 election, with just over 10,000 votes deciding the contest for President. Efforts by Republicans in the state to restrict voting methods and cast doubt on election results through illegitimate audits will surely have an impact on the health of democracy in Arizona in 2022.

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Democracy Maps

Democracy Maps

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Democracy Maps tracks more than 40 laws and policies on elections and voting. Project of Movement Advancement Project, an independent, nonprofit think tank.