The federal government said Tuesday it has reached a deal with Arizona after the state failed to give absentee voters enough time to consider final ballots in a special primary election slated for the end of February. The agreement comes after the Justice Department sued Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan last week, claiming absentee voters were not given 45 days to consider the finalized ballot for a special election to fill a vacancy in the state’s 8th Congressional District. U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, a Republican, stepped down from the seat in December after he was accused of offering a female staffer $5 million to be a surrogate for his children. Gov. Doug Ducey ordered a special primary election for Feb. 27, with the general election set for April 24.
Articles about voting issues in Arizona.
Arizona: Panel okays proposal for state lawmakers to tap U.S. Senate nominees | Arizona Capitol Times
Claiming they’re being ignored by John McCain and Jeff Flake, Republican state legislators took the first steps Tuesday to allowing them — and not the voters — to choose who gets to run for the U.S. Senate. On a 6-3 party-line vote, members of the House Committee on Federalism, Property Rights and Public Policy approved a a measure which would give lawmakers the power to nominate Senate candidates. Legislators from each political party would choose two nominees for each open seat, with the four names going on the general election ballot. HCR 2022 now goes to the full House. If it gets approved there and by the Senate, the change would have to be ratified by voters in November. In essence, the proposal would partly return Arizona to the way things were prior to 1913 when U.S. senators were chosen outright by the legislatures of each state, with no popular vote at all.
Republican state lawmakers are pushing a November ballot proposition that would ask voters to overhaul the panel that draws Arizona’s political boundaries — a move that could affect which party holds power at the state Capitol. The proposition would also give state legislators the authority to potentially sketch their own district boundaries, as well as those of Arizona’s members of Congress. Supporters said the proposal is intended to make the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission — a bipartisan panel that was created to take that power away from the Legislature — larger and, thereby, more bipartisan. But Democrats and voter-advocacy groups say it’s a veiled attempt to dismantle the commission and let state lawmakers pick their voters through gerrymandering.
Republican leaders in the Arizona Legislature are pushing a proposal to dramatically overhaul the independent commission that draws congressional and legislative maps every decade. Redistricting is important because it can decide which party gets the majority of congressional and state legislative seats. It is a contentious issue nationwide. Senate President Steve Yarbrough’s proposal would expand the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission from five to eight members, all appointed by the Legislature. Three would be Democrats, three Republicans and two independents.
The Arizona Secretary of State’s Office has begun revising its website and may also change its forms to make clear that first-time felons automatically get their voting rights restored when they complete their sentences, including paying any fines and restitution. The Campaign Legal Center found that the automatic process wasn’t clear on forms, which misleadingly implied that first-time felons had to go through a process that by law only applies to people with more than one felony conviction, the Arizona Capitol Times reported Wednesday. In a letter to Secretary of State Michele Reagan, the advocacy group noted the state’s website also did not provide any information about automatic restoration for first-time felons.
“The inaccurate or misleading information on these forms assuredly leads many citizens of Arizona not to exercise their constitutionally protected right to vote,” the group told Reagan.
The group is looking at other states’ voter registration forms to ensure they display adequate information, said Danielle Lang, an attorney with the center.
Already it has found six states, including Arizona, that have issues with their forms. Currently, the form in Arizona reads that people cannot register to vote in the state if they “have been convicted of a felony and have not yet had civil rights restored.” It doesn’t elaborate on the distinction between a first-time felon and a repeating offender.
Tempe’s upcoming election will be an all mail-in election, but some worry that as cities and school districts increasingly move to postal voting, homeless people and those with certain disabilities could be disenfranchised. All Maricopa County school districts opted to have voters cast ballots by mail last fall. Cities including Tempe, Fountain Hills, Queen Creek and Surprise are pursuing mail-in ballots this year. Renaldo Fowler of the Arizona Center for Disability Law, along with the Arizona Clean Elections Commission, are among those working to ensure voting by mail doesn’t leave some people out. They’ve been working to educate Arizona’s homeless population on how they can still vote without a home address. And to educate voters with visual impairments and other disabilities that special ballots can be requested, such as large print or braille.
Arizona: Franks’ immediate resignation puts monkey wrench into special election | Arizona Capitol Times
A quirk in state law could force top contenders to replace Trent Franks to choose between a run for Congress and keeping their current jobs in the Legislature. Gov. Doug Ducey is expected to announce Monday the date for the primary election for those who want to vie for the now-open post in Congressional District 8. That can be between Feb. 26 and March 8. But by law, the deadline to submit nominating petitions will be Jan. 10. And that’s what creates the dilemma for sitting lawmakers.
Arizona: Voting rights groups say state is in violation of National Voter Registration Act | Arizona Daily Sun
A coalition of voting rights groups is charging that state agencies are violating federal laws designed to provide opportunities for people to register. In a 15-page complaint Tuesday to Secretary of State Michele Reagan, attorneys for the groups detailed what they say are flaws in both state statutes and the processes used by state agencies in getting people signed up to vote. The lawyers say if the problems are not corrected within 90 days they will sue. Attorney Darrell Hill of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona defended the 90 day deadline. “The state has been aware of some of these problems for quite some time,” he told Capitol Media Services. Hill said groups have filed similar complaints in the past.
A 2016 Arizona law that expanded the ability of some groups to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections without disclosing their donors was challenged in court Wednesday by a group of Democratic lawmakers, a union and a voter advocacy group. The lawsuit filed in Maricopa County Superior Court seeks to overturn parts of the law allowing corporations and some non-profit groups to avoid disclosure. It also seeks to overturn the removal of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission from enforcement authority over some outside campaign spending, and to invalidate another part that allows political parties to pay for lavish fundraisers for candidates.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich says county election officials can maintain separate voter databases but are legally required to send voter information to the secretary of state’s office. Brnovich also said in an opinion released Monday that Secretary of State Michele Reagan can’t refer public records requests or legal subpoenas to counties since she also maintains the voter rolls. The opinion also clarified what voter registration information county recorders are required to provide to Reagan’s office. Solicitor General Dominic Draye wrote that includes everything, and immediately.