Arizona Senate Committee Approves Bill to Ban Voting Centers

The bill would require voters to cast their ballots at polling places within their precincts.

PHOENIX (CN) — The Arizona Senate Committee on Elections voted Monday to advance a bill that would ban counties from using widely available voting centers for all elections, instead returning to precinct-based voting. 

Twelve of Arizona’s 15 counties have introduced voting centers since the Legislature authorized them in 2011. The system allows anyone to case their ballot at any of the voting centers in their county, regardless of their neighborhood or precinct. Maricopa County, home to 4.5 million of the state’s 7.3 million citizens, has about 220 voting centers. House Bill 2547 would end that practice, requiring counties to establish instead precinct-based polling places that serve no more than 1,000 registered voters per location. Voters would only be allowed to vote at their assigned polling place. 

For Maricopa County, that would require roughly 4,500 polling places and at least 13,500 staffers — at least three per polling place. 

Opponents of the bill say the cost of establishing and staffing the additional polling places would overwhelm counties that are already struggling to find election volunteers. Jacob Emnett, representing the County Supervisors Association of Arizona, told the committee Monday that many rural areas don’t have the facilities to host polling places for every 1,000 citizens. 

State Representative Rachel Jones, a Republican from Tucson and the bill’s sponsor, says precinct-based voting is more convenient because local polling places are closer to the voters and have shorter lines. Jones wasn’t present Monday to explain her bill. 

Democrats say voting centers are more reliable, as voters won’t have to worry about accidentally showing up at the wrong voting location. Emnett said the shift to voting centers in 2011 drastically reduced the number of provisional ballots cast because people had showed up to the wrong location. 


Committee chair and Republican Senator Wendy Rogers, from Flagstaff, asked how counties were able to do it before if they can’t do it now.

“If we have more population, that means more volunteers,” she said. The three remaining Republicans joined her in voting yes, making the final vote 4-3. The bill will now head to the Senate floor for a full vote.


Senator Rogers was eager to get through Monday’s agenda, rushing lawmakers along as they asked questions. Sundareshan and state Senator Anna Hernandez, a Democrat from Phoenix, both said they have additional questions for Kolodin, and voted no for now. The rest of the committee voted yes, sending the bill to the Senate.  

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