- Associated Press - Monday, March 14, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - A bill to keep voters from casting ballots using the names of dead people received preliminary approval Monday in the Arizona Senate even though there was no evidence that type of fraud was occurring in the state.

Arizona conservatives are pushing the legislation in the wake of legislative victories that include limiting the collection of early ballots and erecting more hurdles to get initiatives on the ballot.

Republicans say the measures help protect against voter fraud while Democrats argue the moves limit voter participation.

Rep. David Stevens, R-Sierra Vista, sponsored the bill that would expand efforts of the secretary of state to match voter registration with death records to check for instances of identity theft.

The goal is to eliminate voter fraud that could occur when, for example, a mail-in ballot is sent to the home of someone who recently died.

The state, however, has not prosecuted a single case of such fraud in at least five years, said Matt Roberts, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office.

“We support the bill because it does build on those efforts. Anytime you can introduce measures that make it harder to cheat, those are pieces of legislation that we would generally support,” Roberts said.

The proposal would also help prevent counties from sending out unnecessary ballots, which saves money, he said.

House Bill 2084 now awaits a formal vote in the Senate. It received bipartisan support in the House where it passed unanimously last month.

Democratic Rep. Ken Clark, D-Phoenix, said he voted for the proposal even though he does not believe voter fraud is happening on the scale Republicans say it is.

“I didn’t see how it was going to hurt anything,” he said. “You’ve got to pick your battles. It’s death by a thousand cuts with these guys.”

The secretary of state already receives monthly updates from the Arizona Department of Health Services to remove deceased voters from voter registration rolls.

Stevens’ proposal would give the office access to all death records including those of people who weren’t eligible to vote.

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