In a congressional hearing that could have just as easily been plucked from the Arizona Legislature years ago, Democratic Reps. Ruben Gallego and Greg Stanton on Tuesday condemned the state's "ballot-harvesting" law.

State Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, faced a series of mostly unfriendly questions about her law limiting who can drop off early ballots in Arizona, especially because of its impact on Native Americans.

The House Administration subcommittee on voting held a field hearing at Phoenix College that mainly centered on ways that Native Americans have been harmed by several Arizona voting laws.

One of them is the ballot-harvesting law that has been upheld in federal court but is pending on appeal to the full 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Tribal leaders testified Tuesday that many Native Americans don't have home-delivered mail, often rely on extended family or friends for mailing ballots or must travel hundreds of miles to vote in person.

In a testy exchange, Gallego, D-Ariz., a former state legislator, highlighted that Ugenti-Rita didn't seek input from tribes before passing the law that made mass delivery of ballots a felony in 2016.

"Did you speak to any tribal nations, organizations, before you passed that law to try and take their input while you crafting that legislation?" Gallego asked.

Ugenti-Rita offered a factually correct answer that sidestepped the point he was trying to make.

"In committee, it's open to the public and any other vested stakeholder that wants to come in and register their opposition or support of any bill," she said.

Gallego then asked if she would have tribal consultation in the future. Ugenti-Rita said her bills were considered in committee hearings, which would allow public input.

A frustrated Gallego then asked her how many federally recognized tribes there are in Arizona.

Ugenti-Rita acknowledged she didn't know, drawing a smattering of groans from those watching in the audience.

"There's 21," Gallego said curtly. "You've been a state rep and a state senator, I think, since 2010, and you're crafting legislation that affects Native Americans but you don't know how many federally recognized tribes are in Arizona."

Stanton, D-Ariz., a former Phoenix mayor, pressed Ugenti-Rita on why she said she was "forced to conclude that only outside forces and special interest groups could oppose" her ballot-harvesting law.

"Do you consider Arizona's tribal communities 'outside forces' or 'special interest' groups?" he asked.

No, Ugenti-Rita said, adding that the federal appeals court has said that any extralegal burdens imposed by her law as "de minimus, meaning too trivial or minor to even merit consideration. I support the bill because there's not enough evidence to suggest that banning this practice hurts anyone." 

Stanton then asked if, after hearing the tribal leaders testify about people lacking adequate ID or access to postal service, she thought their concerns were de minimus.

Ugenti-Rita said she sided with the court, and added that the tribal leaders also said most people on the reservations prefer to vote in person, which isn't affected by her legislation.

Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, and the subcommittee chairwoman, made clear she thinks ballot tampering doesn't occur in any significant numbers and takes a dim view of voting restrictions.

She got Ugenti-Rita to say she crafted the ballot-harvesting bill after hearing complaints from "maybe a dozen" people in a state with at least 6.5 million residents.

"My thinking is maybe if 12 people come and you're going to make a law that affects 6.5 million people, I think that is a problem," Fudge said. "There was a time in America when being a good neighbor meant something. We helped elderly people. We helped sick people. We helped people who had a disability. Now we say, 'We can't help you.' ... We continue to find solutions for problems that don't exist."

House Democrats are considering a bill that would serve as a Native American Voting Rights Act to ensure fair access to ballots across the country.

After the hearing, Ugenti-Rita called the hearing "a little bit of a dog-and-pony show, and that's OK."

"That's not a problem with me. I think I made fair headway demonstrating that I am very cognizant of both sides of the issue," she said. "I take my time to deliberate election policy, and when I do, it's fact-based. It doesn't have anything to do with partisan politics."