Arizona Republican: We should limit voting rights to ensure 'quality of votes'

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Rep. John Kavanagh says, 'Everybody shouldn't be voting.'

Arizona GOP state Rep. John Kavanagh said the quiet part out loud this week about his party's efforts to suppress the vote.

Discussing a spate of bills Arizona Republicans have introduced that would make it harder to vote, Kavanagh openly admitted that restricting access to the ballot box is the goal: "There's a fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats value as many people as possible voting, and they're willing to risk fraud. Republicans are more concerned about fraud, so we don't mind putting security measures in that won't let everybody vote — but everybody shouldn't be voting."

Kavanagh said lawmakers need to prioritize "the quality of votes" — an eyebrow-raising comment given that voting restrictions often target minority voters.

The Washington Post conducted a review of the hundreds of voter suppression bills Republicans have introduced in states across the country and concluded that the measures "disproportionately affect those in cities and Black voters in particular, who overwhelmingly vote Democratic  — laying bare, critics say, the GOP's true intent: gaining electoral advantage."

Kavanagh, for his part, made his comments in response to questions about the two dozen bills Republicans in the state have filed in his state that make it harder to vote.

Arizona Republicans are seeking to restrict access through measures that include requiring identification to vote by mail, shortening the early-voting period, and even requiring that absentee ballots be postmarked a full week before Election Day.

Another bill would limit the number of people who vote by mail by purging the state's Permanent Early Voter List of people who have not voted in even one general election.

CNN reported that 3.2 million people are on that list, which contains the names of voters who want to receive absentee ballots automatically, which they can either mail back or deposit in a drop box. An overwhelming 80% of voters in Arizona now cast their ballots by mail.

The state is one of many with GOP-controlled legislatures that are seeking to restrict the right to vote in response to Donald Trump's 2020 loss.

Republicans have spread lies that fraud was to blame for Trump's defeat and have used the lies as a pretext for filing hundreds of bills in state legislatures that would make it harder to vote, with many directly targeting minority voters.

Georgia is seeking to cut back on early voting on Sundays, when Black voters vote in large numbers thanks to "Souls to the Polls" events, when Black churches take parishioners to vote after services.

The massive effort in 2021 to suppress the vote follows years of GOP efforts to make it harder for voters — particularly voters of color — to cast ballots.

In 2016, a federal appeals court struck down a voter ID law that had been enacted in 2013 in North Carolina, saying it targeted "African-Americans with almost surgical precision."

In 2018, the Associated Press reported that then-Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp was blocking approval of 53,000 voter registration forms, 70% of which were from Black voters.

While GOP lawmakers say their voter suppression bills are just aimed at making elections more secure, Kavanagh's comments back up voting rights advocates' claims that Republicans are trying to suppress Democratic votes to remain in power.

"The Republicans fear demographic changes and they are trying to change the rules of voting to disenfranchise Black, brown, and young voters," lawyer and voting rights advocate Marc Elias said earlier this month.

Even some Republicans are calling out their own party.

"It's appalling what's happening," former Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele said. "There have been no provable, obvious, systemwide failures or fraud that would require the kind of 'legislative remedies' that Republican legislatures are embarking on. What the hell are you so afraid of? Black people voting?"

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.