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Election bills making way through state legislature

A bill aimed at clearing up some of the confusion and speeding up vote counts after elections cleared its first hurdle in the state Senate Tuesday. Despite its intended goal, critics of the bill say it could make voting tougher for some.

Before last November’s election many voters received early ballots but didn’t mail them back. They then showed up at the polling place on Election Day and were forced to cast provisional ballots. Tens of thousands of those ballots then had to be processed separately. That delayed the final count for more than two weeks.

Senate Bill 1261 would require county recorders to remove voters from the early voting lists if they failed to vote in either a primary or general election.

Brendan Walsh is with Central Arizonans for a Sustainable Economy. He says the process can be improved without changes to the law.

"Provisional voting can be more effective. We can process the ballots more effectively on election day, than we have. We can not make people who are voting provisionally to feel like second class citizens. And we can make the experience of voters who are voting provisionally not be one that’s going to discourage them from voting in the future," Walsh said.

Secretary of State Ken Bennett says there are multiple bills working through the legislature that deal with changes to elections laws. He says he’s focusing on speeding up the count.

"To get more of the vote in and counted on election day. Less work having to be done thereafter and much better coordination between the voters and the counties," Bennett said.

Supporters of the bill acknowledged the critics’ concerns, saying the bill still has a long way to go. It still must be approved by the Senate and then work its way through the House.