Arizona may have made headlines in 2016 when voters had to wait hours in the sun just to vote in the presidential preference election, but advocates in the state said problems with voting are nothing new to them. “Since we’ve been addressing it since 2012, there has been little to no action in actually fixing anything,” said Viri Hernandez, director at the Arizona Center for Neighborhood Leadership. Hernandez pointed to a mix-up on Spanish ballots in 2012 on ballot due dates, and then-Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell’s comment last year that voters turning out were partly to blame for polling lines being so long as just two examples of what she sees as systemic problems. Hernandez was in Washington this week with voting rights advocates from around the nation to take part in the America Votes State Summit, where voting advocates and mostly liberal groups planned strategy to reverse the “shocking” 2016 election results. The sessions were largely closed to the press, but Arizona advocates had plenty to say afterwards.
Articles about voting issues in Arizona.
Arizona: Tucson asks U.S. Supreme Court not to overturn its unique council-election system | Arizona Daily Star
Lawyers for Tucson are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to spurn a bid by Republican interests to kill the city’s unique system of electing council members. In new legal briefs, City Attorney Mike Rankin said there’s nothing inherently unconstitutional about having the six council members nominated by ward but then having a citywide general election. He said it ensures that each area of Tucson is represented and yet requires council members to pay attention to voters in the other five wards. “The city’s election system allows both ward and citywide electorates a voice, and also provides benefits to both,” he argued. In a ruling last year, the full 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the practice.
A top staffer at the Arizona Secretary of State denied accusations made by county recorders earlier this week that the office ordered voter registrations to be cancelled without proper documentation. In a letter delivered Jan. 23, the county recorders described their relationship with the Secretary of State’s office as “dire,” singling out “verbal abuse,” neglected duties and demands to cancel voters came without proper documentation. Secretary of State Michele Reagan asked for an internal accounting of the accusation that her office improperly sought to have some voters removed from the rolls.
Arizona’s 15 county recorders this week delivered a letter to Secretary of State Michele Reagan in which they said communication between their offices and hers is “in a dire state” because state Election Director Eric Spencer has been “ineffective and disrespectful.” The county recorders said in the Jan. 23 letter that Spencer has been verbally abusive, “rude” and “dismissive” of questions posed to him by the recorders and their staffs. In one instance, they wrote, Spencer said the recorders were “incompetent,” and that he has refused to answer “questions of critical importance posed by those same elections officials.” The recorders also said Spencer has neglected statutory obligations and created legal and ethical conflicts with his demands that recorders remove voters from registration rolls.
The Arizona State Legislature drew statewide backlash last week when Republican State Representative Bob Thorpe filed two bills aimed at changing the voting rights and cutting social justice classes for college students in Arizona. House Bill 2260 would in effect disallow any student living in a “dormitory address or other temporary college or university address,” to use that address to register to vote. Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes, who oversees voter registration in Maricopa County, said that the bill is both unconstitutional and unenforceable. “It violates the First Amendment, it violates the due process clause and it violates the equal protections clause,” Fontes said. “I would think a constitutional conservative like Thorpe would have looked at these things.” Fontes, who made student polling locations and voting rights priorities in his campaign, said that he would stay committed to those goals and staunchly opposed the bill. “This is disenfranchisement on its face,” he said. “It treats one particular class of eligible voter different then another eligible class of voters.”
When Rep. Bob Thorpe ran for re-election in November, the areas in and around the Northern Arizona University campus were among the areas that provided his lowest vote tallies. Thorpe won anyway, with strong showings in the largely Republican Gila and Navajo county portion of his legislative district. Now the Flagstaff lawmaker wants to keep students from voting at all unless they happen to already have been living there with their families before they started school.
Arizona: New Maricopa County elections chief disagrees with Arizona election-reform plans | The Arizona Republic
The Maricopa County Elections Department needs to improve relationships with the community, says newly elected Recorder Adrian Fontes. One of his plans to do that: hire staffers to focus on outreach. Voters were outraged last year when they had to wait hours to vote in the presidential-preference election after the previous recorder cut the number of polling places. Fontes won a narrow victory over the incumbent recorder in November after promising a different approach in the wake of the fiasco. “One of the things we were not very good at for a long time was communication with the public. And the public is thirsty for information about the way its government works. … That was one of the main complaints of the prior administration,” Fontes, a Democrat, told The Arizona Republic in an in-depth interview. “That’s why I’m working on increasing the level of interaction we have with the community.”
Computer experts are attempting to hack into the Maricopa County election system at the invitation of Recorder Adrian Fontes as he seeks to boost security in the wake of cyberattacks on national political groups in the 2016 election. Fontes, who took office Jan. 1, said one of his first actions was to hire a “white hat” hacker team from a leading system supplier to partner with the Maricopa County Office of Enterprise Technology to test for internal and external security weaknesses. “My first priority is to provide my fellow citizens with reliable, efficient, safe and secure elections,” Fontes said in a written statement announcing the operation.
Secretary of State Michele Reagan has begun circulating a memo detailing a proposed overhaul of the laws governing virtually every aspect of how elections are conducted in Arizona, from data protocols and recount procedures, to “sore loser” candidates and voter fraud investigations. Matt Roberts, a spokesman for Reagan’s office, said the proposal only begins the conversation about ways election practices can be improved. He said there are two main motivations to Reagan’s proposition: digitizing records and processes, and fixing issues that have come up in recent years. Parts of the proposal, such as requiring counties to report election data in uniform formats, would lead to faster and more detailed results for the public on election night, Roberts said.
Arizona was ranked worst in the country for electoral integrity in a recent postelection survey of political scientists. The Perceptions of Electoral Integrity survey asked political experts about elections in the states where they live in order to measure their perceptions of how well or poorly their state adhered to international standards of conduct before, during and after an election. Although it measures perceptions of electoral integrity, as opposed to actual electoral integrity itself, the methodology is widely trusted and used to compare electoral performance around the world. The concern is that just the perception of electoral fraud or corruption, even without actual proof of fraud, could lead to a loss of public confidence in the voting process.