- Associated Press - Thursday, January 23, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - A hearing on a bill repealing a sweeping 2013 election law that galvanized voter’s rights groups, Democrats, some conservative Republicans and third-party candidates was cancelled Thursday. But the delay is expected to be short as majority Republicans agree the repeal is needed.

The bill was held in the House Judiciary Committee in part to ensure its language matches other repeal bills being readied, but it will be back on the agenda next Thursday.

Once the bills match up, quick passage by each chamber could send them to Gov. Jan Brewer’s desk for action in just weeks, Senate President Andy Biggs said.

“We’re just looking for certainty, as soon as possible,” Biggs said.

The repeal of last year’s House Bill 2305 is designed to head off a voter referendum set for November’s ballot. The election-overhaul law was cobbled together from several GOP bills on the last day of last year’s Legislative session and passed without a single Democratic vote by the Republican majority.

The law was chock-full of changes to the state’s elections law, and many of its provisions drew major opposition from voter rights groups. Among other things, the law trimmed Arizona’s permanent early voting list by cutting non-active voters and limiting who may return mail-in ballots, making it a crime for voter-outreach groups to return ballots. It also greatly increased the number of signatures third-party candidates must gather to appear on the ballot, infuriating Libertarians, and contained a host of other changes.

Referendum supporters oppose the repeal, calling it a thinly disguised effort to avoid the election and allow Republicans to re-enact its provisions piecemeal.

Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, wrote the House repeal bill. He said he isn’t pushing for re-enacting the provisions but acknowledged that may happen.

“There is no concerted effort that I’m aware of — I’m not saying there isn’t one because I don’t know — to break this apart and have it come through a piece at a time,” Farnsworth said last week. “That’s not what I’m doing. I’m saying look, there’s no reason to put it on the ballot, there’s no reason to go to the expense. Let’s repeal it, and then we’ll look at what pieces may or may not need to be addressed on an individual basis.”

The opposition groups collected enough signatures to get the Republican-backed legislation before voters in November. Many of those signing the petition were conservative Republicans, who were joined by Democrats and third-party voters.

Backers of the voter referendum are wary of the Republican effort to repeal the bill.

“I think the voters right now have made their voices clear that they’re not happy with 2305. They want an opportunity to vote on it,” Sen. Steve Gallardo, R-Phoenix, said Wednesday. “And if their intent is to try to piecemeal it in new legislative bills, I think we should let it be on the ballot, let the voters decide.”

Several Republican Senators interviewed this week said they wholeheartedly support the Legislative repeal but also worry of what might happen if some of its provisions are revived in separate legislation. They say there’s concern no changes could be made to provisions of the law without a 2/3 vote of the Legislature if voters do the repeal.

“I would prefer a straight repeal, because … if we’re going to then go ask a judge to keep it off the ballot because we’ve repealed, you kind of lose some of that argument if you say, ‘Well, we’ve repealed part of it,’ ” said Sen. Michele Reagan, R-Scottsdale.

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