Arizona currently leads the nation in introducing legislation meant to restrict voters’ access to the polls, but it is hard to tell that from watching local broadcast news in the state. As of April 1, 23 proposed laws are working their way through the state’s legislature, including two, SB 1485 and SB 1713, that have already passed the state Senate.
A Media Matters review of Arizona local television found there were 42 segments that mentioned one or more of these bills throughout the month of March, but only a fraction of these referenced the disproportionate impacts the proposed voting restrictions would have on voters of color -- and just one segment correctly reported that claims of mass voter fraud in the state’s 2020 election were false.
About 80% of Arizonans voted by mail in 2020 through a popular system called the Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL), which allows voters to sign up to receive mail-in ballots for every election cycle. SB 1485, which passed the state Senate on March 2, gets rid of the “permanent” part of the PEVL, prompting officials to kick people off the list if they do not vote in either a primary or general election for two consecutive cycles.
The Arizona Senate approved SB 1713 on March 8. If passed into law, the bill would require voters to provide an identification number or a voter registration number plus a copy of a qualifying document confirming their address in order to submit an absentee ballot.
Other bills now under consideration in the Arizona legislature include:
- HB 2720 would allow the state legislature to toss the results of the presidential election and reallocate electoral votes based on the state legislature’s whims up until Inauguration Day. The proposal also prevents judges from tossing out legal challenges to the results of an election and instead allows "any party to an election challenge to demand a jury trial, which must be granted and swiftly carried out.”
- HB 2701 would eliminate no-excuse absentee voting entirely in Arizona, limiting mail-in ballots “only to people who cannot physically vote at a polling place.”
- HB 2811 would criminalize same-day voter registration in the state, even though Arizona does not have same-day registration currently.
There are 18 more bills like these, adding up to more legislative attacks on the right to vote than in any other state in the country. And many of these restrictions would have an outsized impact on minority voters.
For instance, SB 1713, one of the pieces of legislation that is furthest along toward becoming law in Arizona, would effectively block more minority voters than white voters from submitting a mail-in ballot. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, people of color are disproportionately disenfranchised by bills like SB 1713 because they are statistically more likely to lack the kind of identification required to vote.
In comments to the Arizona Mirror, Randy Perez, democracy director at Living United for Change Arizona, tied the GOP-led effort to suppress votes to a desire to maintain power in the state, saying: “Our growing power of communities of color, and our willingness and engagement to turn out in elections for the past ten years is being met with such resistance, blatant white supremacy and a naked attempt to hold on to power by the majority party at our state legislature.”
Only seven of the 42 segments of local news coverage on these bills mentioned the impact that these restrictions would have on minority communities.
Over half of those 42 segments (23) mentioned that the proposed legislation would restrict, limit, or even suppress voting if they became law, but many of these also provided GOP claims that the bills were necessary to rebuild a sense of legitimacy in the voting process with the general public after the 2020 election.
Only one segment mentioned specifically that no significant fraud was found in Arizona’s 2020 election, though it also included a Republican lawmaker’s claim that “the system is broken if we have this many people who don’t have faith in it.” The anchor did not push back on his statement that it would be “another type of voter suppression” to dismiss these false claims of election fraud.
Other segments were bare-bones explanations of what a specific bill would do and how it was proceeding through the legislature, neglecting to even mention why these voting restrictions were being introduced in the first place or which populations they would primarily impact.
Media Matters searched transcripts in the Kinetiq video database for all original programming on local ABC, CBS, Fox Broadcasting Co., and NBC affiliates in the Phoenix (Prescott), Yuma-El Centro, Tucson (Sierra Vista), and Albuquerque-Santa Fe television markets for any mention of the term “Arizona” within 20 words of any of the terms “voter suppression,” “voter registration,” “early voting”, “voter legislation,” “voting legislation,” “mail in,” “ballots,” “absentee," “voter ID,” “voter identification,” “Stand-Up,” “vote by mail,” “voting window,” “vote window,” “voter access,” “vote early,” “mailed in,” “voter restriction,” “restricting franchise,” “voter disenfranchise,” “emergency voting,” “voter affidavit,” “voter deadline,” “voting deadline,” “electoral votes,” “election results,” “All Voting is Local,” or “but everybody shouldn't be voting” from March 1 through 31, 2021.
We then reviewed news segments about voter legislation in Arizona for whether any speaker or clip in the segment acknowledged that the bills targeted Democratic, minority, and low-income voters; acknowledged that vote recounts in Arizona found no 2020 election fraud; pushed unfounded claims of election fraud or framed the legislation as restoring confidence or election integrity; or called the bills an attempt to suppress, restrict, or otherwise limit votes.