PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Anyone paid to register voters in Arizona could soon face hefty fines or jail time.

A House committee passed on Tuesday a Republican-sponsored bill, HB 2616, along a party line that would make it a class 1 misdemeanor to sign up voters for money.

Anyone found guilty would face up to six months in jail and a potential $2,500 fine.

Rep. Kelly Townsend, a Republican from Apache Junction, said the bill is meant to protect the integrity of elections and eliminate fraud.

"After talking with some of the county recorders, it came to my attention that there was (sic) some problems with people registering folks to vote but doing it fraudulently," Townsend said.

The bill exempts political parties, meaning they could still hire workers to register voters.

[POLL: Should it be illegal to pay people to register voters?]

Townsend said she is open to making changes that allow workers to register voters if they're paid an hourly wage instead of getting paid on a per-registration basis.

Critics charge the proposal as written will have a chilling effect on elections and drive down voter turnout.

"This bill really discourages additional participation in our democracy," said Diane Brown, the executive director of the Public Interest Research Group.

"What Arizona policymakers should be doing is making it easier not harder for individuals to register to vote," she added.


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