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GOP lawmakers advance bill to require schools to serve as polling locations

Republicans advanced a bill in the state Legislature on Wednesday to require schools with gyms to serve as polling places as an alternative to voting centers. 

The bill allows for both precinct voting places and voting centers. 

Precinct voting locations are designated for a certain area, so the election workers know the maximum number of people who can show up to vote. With voting centers, any eligible voter can go vote at a location of their choice. 

Sen. J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler) argued that voting centers have their issues.

“Between long lines that may show up there, broken printers, I find the notion that you would oppose this bill because you want increased access absolutely ludicrous,” Mesnard said.

Democrats like Sen. Mitzi Epstein (D-Tempe) opposed the bill and said that it both requires schools to close and teachers to work, which they worry would disenfranchise the educators. 

“Gosh, if we just collaborate a little bit across the aisle, we could’ve gotten it right,” Epstein said.

Bill sponsor Sen. Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek) said that teachers get off work well before the polls close, so they’ll have plenty of time to vote. He also argued that if they want to, the bill won’t stop them from taking time off to vote.

Democrats went back and forth with Republicans, calling one another “Looney Tunes” for their positions on the bill. 

The bill passed the Senate on party lines.

Camryn Sanchez is a field correspondent at KJZZ covering everything to do with state politics.