In the last two presidential elections, Arizona’s chief elections officer doubled as the head of one of the presidential nominees’ state campaign committees, raising eyebrows that the dual role could be a conflict of interest. A bill has been introduced in the state Senate that would bar that from happening again. Under the terms of Senate Bill 1335, the Arizona secretary of state could not serve as an officer of any candidate’s campaign committee if that candidate is running in an election the secretary of state would oversee. Sen. Robert Meza, D-Phoenix, the bill’s sponsor, said it’s a way to ensure that election oversight is not biased. It would bring the elections office in line with the same prohibitions that apply to the judiciary: judges can’t serve on a candidate’s committee, he said.
The bill has been assigned to two committees instead of the customary single committee. That’s often a sign a bill will have a difficult time getting very far. The Senate Elections Committee will consider the bill on Tuesday afternoon.
But Meza said bipartisan support for the bill should help. Eight Republicans joined nine Democrats to sponsor the bill. Sen. Don Shooter, R-Yuma,one of those Republicans, said the bill struck him as a no-brainer. “You can’t have the fox guarding the chicken house,” he said.
Shooter said the bill is not intended as a critique of any past secretaries of state. Creating a divide between the election officer’s official duties and political activities just makes sense, he said.