Republicans Plan to Purge Voters in Arizona

In November, Arizona Democrats helped propel the party to a massive win, leading to questions about what the state will look like in the all-important 2020 presidential election. In response, Republicans are reaching into a well-versed playbook, and are planning on removing eligible voters.

State Bill 1188 “would purge voters from the mail-in ballot list if they don't vote in either the primary or general election for two consecutive election cycles for federal, statewide or legislative office,” The Arizona Republic reported. An estimated 200,000 voters could be purged under the law; two times more than the 91,234 vote margin that allowed President Donald Trump to claim the state's 11 electoral votes. It was also much more than the 55,900 votes that allowed Democratic challenger Kyrsten Sinema to flip the state's Senate seat — and those 200,000 voters may play a pivotal role in the 2020 special election to determine the future of the state's other Senate seat, currently held by Republican Martha McSally.

The November election was historic for Democrats, who broke a Republican stranglehold on the Senate. Arizona could be an important state in the 2020 elections.

If the 2018 election is any indication, voters of color will decide the future of the country. For proof, look to December 2017 when Black women turned out in droves in Alabama, propelling Democratic challenger Doug Jones to victory over Roy Moore in an election that was marked by allegations of Moore's inappropriate relationships with underage and teenage girls. Despite those allegations, white women supported Moore in the general election.

Arizona's voter turnout is dependent on mail-in ballots, which account for three-quarters of the state's votes, The Republic noted, adding: “Currently, voters on the list receive a mail-in ballot indefinitely. Election officials remove voters when they die or put them on the ‘inactive’ list if they move and don't update their address.” Last year, in Georgia, then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp — a candidate for governor in a race he ultimately won by slightly more than 50,000 votes — purged more than 340,000 voters from the state's voter list, according to investigative journalist Greg Palast. Palast told Salon that Kemp used “a devil's toolkit of vote-bending tricks.”

Republicans have a pattern of attempting to limit the number of voters — especially minority ones. Ohio state Republicans have been leading an effort to remove hundreds of thousands of people from lists of eligible voters by stripping registration from those who hadn’t voted within six years and didn't respond to mailings. Ohio's practice was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2018, despite warnings from Chief Justice Sonia Sotomayor: “concerted state efforts to prevent minorities from voting and to undermine the efficacy of their votes are an unfortunate feature of our country’s history.”

A trip to Wisconsin will also show that a trend is emerging. After taking over in 2010, the state's Republican leadership made moves to make voting harder — and purge voters from the state's rolls. Nearly 700,000 voters — or almost 20 percent of total voters — were removed in the state roles, according to the Center for Media and Democracy. The purge has been centered in the Democratic-heavy areas of Milwaukee and Dane County, where nearly 25 percent of voters have been purged. Wisconsin's crackdown on voters may have turned a presidential election. The 23,000-vote difference between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton could have swung the other way had the state seen its 2012-level of votes — 41,000 more than in 2016. As Mother Jones chronicled on the state's voting crackdown:

Turnout fell only slightly in white middle class areas of the city but plunged in Black ones. . . . After the election, registered voters in Milwaukee County and Madison’s Dane County were surveyed about why they didn’t cast a ballot. Eleven percent cited the voter ID law and said they didn’t have an acceptable ID; of those, more than half said the law was the “main reason” they didn’t vote.

It's likely that the Republican Party is intentionally making voting harder for minority groups to decrease turnout. Before the 2016 elections, Wisconsin Representative Glenn Grothman predicted that voter ID laws will help the state go Republican, telling a television station: "I think Hillary Clinton is about the weakest candidate the Democrats have ever put up. And now we have photo ID, and I think photo ID is going to make a little bit of a difference as well."

There is a long list of Republicans who have admitted that they are pursuing voter ID laws in order to prevent minorities — whom they fear will vote for Democrats — from voting. Pennsylvania's Republican Chairman, Rob Gleason, boasted that voter ID laws helped make President Barack Obama's 2012 margin of victory smaller than his 2008 margin in the state.

With the 2020 elections right around the corner, the question that must be asked won't be, “who will everyone vote for?” but “who will be allowed to cast a vote at all?”

About the Author

Jeremy Binckes is an experienced writer and editor who has reported on news, politics, culture, and sports. He was most recently a news editor at Salon, and he has written articles for a number of publications.