- Bowers doomed a bill that allowed the legislature to overturn elections, per Capitol Media Services.
- The speaker, who backed former President Trump in 2020, was skeptical of granting such wide powers.
- The legislation was pushed by conservatives who also wanted all ballots to be counted by hand.
The Republican speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives on Tuesday effectively doomed legislation that would have permitted the state legislature to overturn election results, according to Capitol Media Services.
House Bill 2596, which was introduced by conservative state Rep. John Fillmore of Apache Junction last month, was intended to curb no-excuse early voting and order that every ballot be counted by hand no later than 24 hours after precincts close on Election Day.
However, the bill also afforded increased oversight of elections to lawmakers, allowing the legislature to nullify election results from legislative races, along with congressional and statewide contests.
In lieu of spiking the bill unilaterally, Speaker Rusty Bowers simply assigned the legislation to each of the state House’s 12 committees, virtually eliminating the chances of the proposal being passed by the legislature, per the Capitol Media Services report.
“We gave the authority to the people,” the Mesa Republican told the news outlet, pointing out that the bill had been sent to multiple committees for further review.
He voiced skepticism at the Republican-led proposal, though, despite the party’s widespread acceptance of former President Donald Trump’s debunked claims about the 2020 presidential election and his own support of the former president’s reelection bid.
“For somebody to say we have plenary authority to overthrow a vote of the people for something we think may have happened, where is [the evidence]?” Bowers asked.
Stan Barnes, a Republican consultant and former state legislator who has known Bowers for decades, told The New York Times that the speaker “wanted to put the wooden cross right through the heart of this thing for all to see.”
The speaker’s action drew condemnation from Fillmore.
“He does things like he’s God,” the conservative legislator told Capitol News Services, while conceding that there wasn’t currently enough support in the 31-member House caucus to remove Bowers and replace him with a like-minded Republican.
“Sometimes there are a great many of the legislators (who) don’t have the intestinal fortitude to do what is right,” Fillmore added.
The bill as written would have also eliminated the use of electronic voting machines or tabulators in Arizona elections, which Fillmore said during a January legislative floor speech was needed to return to “1958-style voting.”
“We should have voting, in my opinion, in person, one day on paper, with no electronic means and hand counting that day,” he said when discussing the bill last month, later rejecting the notion that he wanted to return to practices that violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Arizona — a longtime GOP bastion that in recent years has become one of the country’s premier swing states — has been ground zero for some of the Republican Party’s most high-profile efforts to question the 2020 election results.
While most Arizona officials have long contended that there was no electoral malfeasance at the local level, Trump and many Republicans across the country continue to promote the claim that the vote was tainted, notably in Maricopa County. The county is the state’s most populous jurisdiction and one that voted for now-President Joe Biden after years of supporting GOP presidential nominees.
A Maricopa election audit widely touted by Republicans nationwide last year reaffirmed the president’s countywide victory over Trump.
In 2020, Biden became the first Democratic presidential nominee since Bill Clinton in 1996 to win Arizona, defeating Trump by 10,457 votes out of nearly 3.4 million ballots cast.