On Feb. 22, Laura Sue Cates registered to vote in Sullivan County, Tennessee. Previously, she had been registered to vote in Arizona’s Coconino County, so the Sullivan County Election Commission sent Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan a formal notice to ensure that Cates’ voter registration would be removed from Arizona’s rolls. Every day, the thousands of voting jurisdictions in the U.S. share information about current voter registrations to guard against people being registered in multiple places. The Arizona secretary of state receives hundreds each week and forwards them to the appropriate county recorder, as voter rolls in Arizona are maintained at the county level. A sample of a week’s worth of these notices, received between March 1 and March 7, obtained under the state’s public records law, shows 240 voters were identified by out-of-state voting jurisdictions.
The fact that copies of the documents were produced for the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting (AZCIR) reflects a shift in policy by the Secretary of State’s Office, which had not been keeping copies of the voter-registration notices as of January of this year and did not view them as public records.
The office implemented the change after a dust-up between Arizona’s 15 county recorders and Reagan’s office over one such notice, and a subsequent, months-long dispute with AZCIR over the legal requirements for the records to be preserved.
Arizona’s 15 county recorders sent a letter to Reagan on Jan. 23, criticizing the her office for “creating and unnecessary legal and ethical conflict” with the way a specific notice was handled last fall.