A three-term Arizona lawmaker wants police posted at every polling place to deal with possible violence he fears could result because of the current divisive and angry political atmosphere.
But Rep. Jay Lawrence, R-Scottsdale, rejected any suggestion the heightened intensity of feelings has anything to do with the comments and tweets coming out of the White House.
And he doesn’t intend to have the state pick up the cost should HB 2137 become law.
“I would like to have security at every polling station to make certain if there is a problem at the polling station, someone has a police officer with whom they can speak with regard to the offense that is being seen,’’ he told Capitol Media Services.
Lawrence could not cite a single instance in Arizona history where anyone sought to interrupt voting. But he said things are different now.
“Have you ever seen voting as it’s been going on in the last election?’’ Lawrence said.
“Have you ever seen the discord between political parties that now exists?’’ he continued. There has never been a society, except perhaps the Civil War, so opposed to each other and so opposed to the thoughts of each other.’’
Lawrence said this isn’t about mediating disputes between election officials and people who are told they’re not registered to vote. What he fears, he said, is the potential for violence.
“We are talking about contentious, we’re talking about anger, we’re talking about someone who comes in and intends to disrupt the polling place because of the politics,’’ Lawrence explains, “There are individuals in our society whose anger is so thorough, so extreme, they will do anything they can.’’
But is any of the cause of this situation due to presidential rhetoric?
“Absolutely not,’’ he said as he launched into a defense of Trump.
“It is a president who has done so much for society,’’ Lawrence said. “I won’t even go into all of the things.’’
The way he sees it, the problem stems from the other side of the political divide.
“People have been against him since the day he came down the escalator,’’ Lawrence said, a reference to how Trump entered the hall in 2015 at Trump Tower in New York City to announce his presidential bid.
“They are angry at him,’’ he said. “They are angry their candidate didn’t win and they’re still holding that election.’’
So who are they?
“The same people that are represented, I won’t even say, on the floor of this House,’’ Lawrence responded, a thinly veiled reference to the Democrats who are the minority party at the Capitol.
That still leaves the question of who picks up the cost.
Maricopa County alone is expected to have more than 500 polling places for the August primary and November general election. And with polls open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and without a lunch break, it could require more than one officer assigned to each site.
Lawrence said he doubts the state would pony up the necessary cash.
“Perhaps each individual city in which the polling place exists will consider volunteer police officers at these scenes,’’ he said. And Lawrence brushed aside questions of whether a city volunteering a peace officer for such duty means that city would be on the hook for the cost.
No hearing has yet been set for the legislation.