The secretary of state has dumped the vendor responsible for publishing Arizona’s election results online after persistent problems on Election Day in 2012 and 2014. The state’s election website was slow, difficult to load and produced error messages during the 2012 primary and general elections. In 2014, former Secretary of State Ken Bennett and the election vendor SOE Software promised improvements, but the problems persisted with outages and errors that frustrated voters and candidates. Matt Roberts, spokesman for the secretary of state, said the contract was not renewed in March, because of SOE Software’s poor election-night performances, “communication issues,” and the system’s limited customization features.
The Arizona Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to halt a recount in southern Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District race between Democratic incumbent Ron Barber and Republican challenger Martha McSally. The high court dismissed a special-action lawsuit filed by a group of voters challenging the state’s plan to use the same computer program it used in the regular ballot count. The justices said in a brief order that the voters could continue to try to challenge the recount rules in Superior Court. “I’m really disappointed,” said Tucson attorney Bill Risner, who filed suit on behalf of seven voters in Cochise and Pima counties and isn’t affiliated with either campaign. “Our courts in general, there’s a real hostility to democracy and getting involved in election stuff. This is a simple case, it’s highly important and they’re making a real mistake in terms of their job of not taking this case.” Risner said he was considering whether to start the case over in the lower court.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Ron Barber filed suit in U.S. District Court Monday, seeking to count the ballots of 133 voters his campaign contends were disenfranchised in the congressional race against Republican Martha McSally. McSally has a razor-thin lead of 161 votes, out of more than 219,000 cast in the 2nd District race. A recount is scheduled for after Dec. 1, but it will be delayed if Barber’s legal challenge is heard by the courts. The lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to stop the state from certifying the results of the election on Dec. 1, less than a week away. Rodd McLeod, a campaign consultant for Barber, said a time or place for the hearing has not been set. Pima and Cochise counties last week rejected calls from the Barber campaign to delay certifying votes in those counties and examine disputed ballots. Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett and the Pima and Cochise boards of supervisors are named in the suit, along with “all those acting in concert with them or under their direction.”
A recount in the Congressional District 2 race most likely will take place, but not until at least December at the earliest. The 133-vote gap between Democrat Ron Barber and Martha McSally is small enough to trigger an automatic recount according to state law, but Secretary of State Ken Bennett won’t ask a judge for a recount until after the statewide results are certified next month. The Pima County Board of Supervisors is expected to canvass election results next week, but Bennett is not expected to certify those results until Dec. 1, when he signs off on all the races on this year’s ballot. Once the results are official and show less than a 200-vote margin, Bennett will present them to a judge in Maricopa County Superior Court, who will be asked to order the recount.
Kansas: Federal appeals court rejects citizenship proof rule for Kansas voters | The Kansas City Star
A federal appeals court on Friday handed a significant setback to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s efforts to require all new and re-registering voters to provide a document proving citizenship. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled that Kansas cannot require proof-of-citizenship documents — almost always a birth certificate or passport — from prospective voters who register using a federal voter registration form. The court also said that a federal agency doesn’t have to alter the form to fit Kansas requirements. Arizona has a similar proof-of-citzenship requirement, and Kobach argued the case on behalf of both states in conjunction with Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett. The Kansas requirement is separate from a section of state law requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls.
Kansas: Appeals court overturns state proof-of-citizenship requirements on federal voting forms | The Wichita Eagle
A federal appeals court has ruled that Kansas cannot force a federal agency to add state proof-of-citizenship requirements to federal voting registration forms. The decision by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver is a significant setback to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s efforts to require documents proving citizenship – almost always a birth certificate or passport – to register to vote. Arizona has a similar requirement and Kobach argued the case on behalf of both states in conjuction with Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett. Wichita District Judge Eric Melgren had ruled that the Election Assistance Commission, a federal agency, was required to add state-specific citizenship-proof requirements to the instructions for using the federal form in Kansas and Arizona. The appeals court overturned Melgren’s ruling.
Fears that thousands of voters would be denied the right to vote for state officials this year were proven wrong in the state’s first use of a two-tier voting system. Just 21 voters statewide who registered using a federal form for Arizona elections were forced to only vote for federal candidates in the Aug. 26 primary, Secretary of State Ken Bennett said Monday. Bennett created the system last year after the U.S. Supreme Court said Arizona can’t require additional identification from voters using the federal “motor-voter” form. Attorney General Tom Horne said that conflicted with state law requiring proof of citizenship. So Arizona let people who didn’t provide ID vote just for federal races, meaning they couldn’t vote for statewide officers such as the governor or state legislators. Instead, those who registered using only the federal form were given ballots with only U.S. House of Representatives races on them.
On behalf of Gov. Jan Brewer, Attorney General Tom Horne and Secretary of State Ken Bennett (none of whom actually asked for my help) I called Sam Wercinski, Executive Director of Arizona Advocacy Network, and demanded that he stop trying prevent these three fine elected officials from wasting ungodly amounts of taxpayer money on a problem that does not exist. By which I mean – voter fraud. Last week, a two-judge panel from the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the implementation of voter suppression laws in Arizona and Kansas. The laws essentially go beyond the federal voter registration form, requiring those who register to provide proof of citizenship. Wercinski’s organization, along with the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, LULAC and State Senator Steve Gallardo has been fighting the law, which led to the state’s plan to create and implement a completely unnecessary and wildly expensive two-track voting system. All for the few and far between cases of voter fraud. “The 10th circuit did a good thing,” Wercinski told me. “But the state seems intent on fighting this ridiculous fight anyway.” Arizona already has spent a ton of money on what top officials pretend to be a voter-fraud problem. They know the problem doesn’t exist. But claiming that it does plays really, really well with some voters.
National: Election Assistance Commission seeks stay of order in voter citizenship case | Associated Press
Federal election officials have asked a judge to temporarily suspend his own order that they help Kansas and Arizona enforce state laws requiring voters to prove their U.S. citizenship, arguing that the case “implicates the fundamental right to register to vote.” The court filing late Monday comes in response to U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren’s decision on March 19 requiring the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to immediately modify a national voter registration form to add special instructions for Arizona and Kansas residents about those states’ proof-of-citizenship requirements. More than a dozen voting rights groups, which had previously intervened in the litigation, made a similar joint request for a stay last week. Project Vote Inc. filed its own motion Tuesday seeking the same thing. Kansas and Arizona had asked the federal agency for state-specific modifications, but it refused. Secretaries of State Kris Kobach of Kansas and Ken Bennett of Arizona, both conservative Republicans, sued the agency last year.
National: Judge orders U.S. election commission to help Kansas, Arizona enforce voter law | Associated Press
A federal judge on Wednesday ordered the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to help Kansas and Arizona enforce laws requiring new voters to provide proof of their U.S. citizenship. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren in Wichita ruled the commission has no legal authority to deny requests from Kansas and Arizona to add state-specific instructions to a national voter registration form. The states and their top election officials — secretaries of state Kris Kobach of Kansas and Ken Bennett of Arizona — sued the agency to force the action.
In a rebuff to state officials, the head of the federal Elections Assistance Commission has rejected Arizona’s request to require proof of citizenship by those using a federal form to register to vote. In a 46-page order late Friday, Alice Miller, the commission’s acting director, said Congress was within its rights to conclude that those seeking to vote need not first provide documentary proof of eligibility. Miller said the affidavit of citizenship, coupled with criminal penalties for lying, are sufficient. Friday’s ruling is yet another significant setback for Arizona’s effort to enforce the 2004 voter-approved law. The state had argued all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court it has a constitutional right to demand citizenship proof, only to be rebuffed last year. But the justices, in their 7-2 ruling, said state officials were free to petition the EAC to add the requirement to the form. Friday’s order forecloses that option.
A proof-of-citizenship requirement for Kansas voters is likely to come under attack once the Legislature opens its annual session, but the debate over the policy championed by Secretary of State Kris Kobach also will play in out in federal court and his re-election campaign. The law took effect at the start of the year and requires new voters to produce a birth certificate, passport or other documentation of their U.S. citizenship when registering. As the year ends, more than 19,000 Kansas residents find their registrations on hold — keeping them from legally casting ballots — because they haven’t complied. Several Democratic lawmakers have proposed rewriting or repealing the proof-of-citizenship law, and even some of Kobach’s fellow Republicans in the GOP-dominated Legislature want to look for ways to shrink the list of affected voters. Former state Sen. Jean Schodorf, the expected Democratic challenger for Kobach, is calling on legislators to audit how Kobach’s office has administered the law once they convene Jan. 13.
A federal judge will hear arguments Friday in the lawsuit filed by Kansas and Arizona requesting the national voter registration form be changed so that the two states can fully enforce proof-of-citizenship requirements for new voters ahead of the 2014 midterm elections. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Arizona counterpart Ken Bennett want the federal court to order the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to include instructions on the federal form that would require Kansas and Arizona residents to provide a birth certificate, passport or other proof of U.S. citizenship when registering to vote. Kobach has pushed the proof-of-citizenship policy as a way to prevent non-citizens — particularly immigrants living in the U.S. without legal permission — from registering and possibly voting. The U.S. Justice Department, which is representing the election commission, has argued that changing the requirements on the federal form for residents of Kansas and Arizona would in essence affect nationwide policy because it might encourage every state to seek increased proof of citizenship in order to register for federal elections. The current federal registration form requires only that someone sign a statement that he or she is a U.S. citizen.
Editorials: Common sense and the Constitution should guide Arizona voting policy | Arizona Capitol Times
It makes absolutely no sense that someone would be qualified to vote for president but not for governor. Yet that’s the logic of Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne and Secretary of State Ken Bennett. In order to get around a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Bennett and Horne have proposed implementing a two-tiered voting system — based on the form people use to register. People who register using the state form will be able to cast ballots in all elections; those who register with the federal form will be limited to federal races. If all goes as Horne and Bennett hope, Arizona will have two classes of voters for next year’s mid-term elections. It will be a significant policy shift — prior to Horne’s opinion on the matter in October, Arizonans could vote in any election after registering with the federal form. Moreover, dividing the voter rolls will be costly for taxpayers, burdensome for elections officials and confusing for voters.
Arizona: Activists seek to thwart proof-of-citizenship demand for voter registration | The Verde Independent
Attorneys for four Arizona groups involved with voter registration are trying to get a federal judge to kill a bid by Secretary of State Ken Bennett to require proof of citizenship from all who register to vote. Nina Perales of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund said the U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that Arizona cannot enforce its documentation requirement on those who use a special registration form crafted by the federal Election Assistance Commission. “The interest that these Arizona organizations have is in protecting their victory that they just won,’ Perales said. She said Bennett’s lawsuit “is essentially trying to make an end-run around the U.S. Supreme Court decision.’ But Bennett said all he is doing is following a roadmap the high court provided when it ruled against Arizona in June.
Secretary of State Kris Kobach and his critics are tangled in two lawsuits over whether Kansas will create a dual voter registration system, but the disputes are only proxies for ongoing battles over the state’s proof-of-citizenship law. The lawsuits, one each in state and federal court, deal with how Kansas treats prospective voters who use the federal government’s national registration form. The federal form has people sign a statement affirming their U.S. citizenship but doesn’t require them to produce a birth certificate, passport or other citizenship papers. If people use state registration forms, they aren’t eligible to cast ballots in any race until they produce citizenship papers under a law that took effect in January. Under a dual registration system, people who use the state form and comply with the proof-of-citizenship rule could vote in any race on the ballot. People who use the federal forms and don’t submit citizenship papers to election officials would be eligible to vote only in presidential, U.S. Senate and congressional races.
Arizonans may not get a chance to vote Green at the next election. Secretary of State Ken Bennett announced Wednesday that the number of people who selected to register as party members has dropped below the legal minimum. That leaves just four official parties: Republican, Democrat, Libertarian and Americans Elect. And that last party also is in trouble: Bennett said its registration also does not have sufficient registrants. But he said that, by virtue of being a new party in Arizona in 2011, is entitled to keep its ballot status through the 2014 election. Bennett said that state law requires a political party to have at least 5 percent of the total number of votes cast for governor or president at the most recent election.
Arizona has spent enormous amounts of time and money waging war against voter fraud, citing the specter of illegal immigrants’ casting ballots. State officials from Gov. Jan Brewer to Attorney General Tom Horne to Secretary of State Ken Bennett swear it’s a problem. At an August news conference, Horne and Bennett cited voter-fraud concerns as justification for continuing a federal-court fight over state voter-ID requirements. And some Republican lawmakers have used the same argument to defend a package of controversial new election laws slated to go before voters in November 2014. But when state officials are pushed for details, the numbers of actual cases and convictions vary and the descriptions of the alleged fraud become foggy or based on third-hand accounts.
A federal judge has set an expedited schedule in a lawsuit filed by Kansas and Arizona against a federal agency in hopes of bolstering their states’ enforcement of proof-of-citizenship requirements for new voters. A hearing was scheduled for Dec. 13 on the states’ request for a preliminary injunction forcing the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to modify a national voter registration form to help the states administer their requirements. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren, based in Wichita, also told the commission and its top administrator Thursday that they had until Nov. 27, the day before Thanksgiving, to file a written response to the request for such an order. A preliminary injunction would impose the change even before the lawsuit is heard.
Saying he is not willing to maintain a dual registration system, Secretary of State Ken Bennett is asking the court to order the federal Election Assistance Commission to modify its voter registration forms to demand proof of citizenship. In legal filings Wednesday, Bennett said he needs an immediate order to ensure that Arizona and Kansas — which is seeking the same relief — are not denied “their sovereign and constitutional right to establish and enforce voter qualifications.” Without the order, Bennett said the state will forced to register unqualified voters. The U.S. Supreme Court in June ruled that Arizona is required to accept the federally designed form, even though it does not require the proof of citizenship that Arizona voters mandated in 2004. The justices, in a 7-2 ruling, said Congress was legally entitled to impose that mandate when it comes to federal elections.
Arizona: Bennett seeks legal relief on proof of citizenship on voter registration forms | The Verde Independent
Not willing to maintain a dual registration system, Secretary of State Ken Bennett wants a court to order the federal Election Assistance Commission to modify its voter registration forms to demand proof of citizenship. In legal filings Wednesday, Bennett said he needs an immediate order to ensure that Arizona — and Kansas, which is seeking the same relief — are not denied “their sovereign and constitutional right to establish and enforce voter qualifications.’ Without the order, Bennett said the state will forced to register unqualified voters. The U.S. Supreme Court in June ruled that Arizona is required to accept the federally designed form even though it does not require the proof of citizenship that voters mandated in 2004. The justices, in a 7-2 ruling, said Congress was legally entitled to impose that mandate when it comes to federal elections. But Bennett concluded earlier this month there is a legal work-around: a dual voter registration system, one for those who can prove citizenship and can vote on all races, and a second for those without such proof who could vote only in federal contests. And he ordered counties to put that into place just weeks ago.
Arizona election officials are planning to provide two types of ballots for the next election following an opinion by the state’s attorney general. In the most populous county, Maricopa, this change could cost an additional $250,000 per federal election cycle. The opinion by Attorney General Tom Horne came in response to questions from Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett regarding a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona Inc. The court ruled 7-2 that Arizona could not require proof of citizenship from people using the federally provided national mail voter registration form but upheld a state law requiring proof of citizenship for registrants using the state form.
The state Court of Appeals on Tuesday blocked enactment of a new state law allowing candidates to take sharply higher campaign donations. In a brief ruling, the three-judge panel essentially accepted arguments by the attorney for the Citizens Clean Elections Commission that there is reason to believe the higher limits, approved earlier this year by the Republican-controlled Legislature, are illegal. The court did not explain which of two legal theories advanced by Joe Kanefield they were accepting.
Voter beware: Even if you are legally registered to vote at an Arizona residence, you may not be allowed to vote for state and local offices in 2014. Last week, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne released an opinion directing the state’s top elections official, Secretary of State Ken Bennett, to implement a split election system in which voters will be restricted to a much shorter ballot if they only completed a federal voter registration form, which does not require proof of citizenship. Arizona state law requires proof of citizenship from all voters in state and local elections, even for voters previously registered in another state or Arizona county, in the form of an Arizona driver’s license issued after 1996, a birth certificate, a passport, naturalization documents or a Tribal Certificate of Indian Blood. At the federal level, however, the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 created a universal voter registration form requiring that a person sign under penalty of perjury that he or she is a U.S. citizen, and mandates that those with a driver’s license or social security number provide that information; those without are given a separate ID number by the state.
Arizona and Kansas, where top state posts come up for grabs next year, are creating two-tiered voting systems to bar some residents from casting ballots in all but congressional races unless they prove they’re U.S. citizens. The dual methods are in response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that bars Arizona from rejecting federal voter-registration forms that don’t include proof of citizenship, which is required by both states. To comply, both plan to provide those voters with ballots listing just federal races. “It is quite likely going to disenfranchise a number of voters,” said Julie Ebenstein, a lawyer with the Voting Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union in New York. “It is going to cause a lot of expense to county election officials and confusion.”
At least 1,400 Arizonans would be allowed to vote only in federal elections under a rule announced this week by Attorney General Tom Horne, according to a survey of county election officials. The rule requires counties to maintain one list for voters who used state registration forms or provided proof of citizenship and one for those who used a federal form and didn’t provide evidence of citizenship. Horne issued the opinion at the request of Secretary of State Ken Bennett, who asked how to comply with both a state law requiring proof of citizenship to vote and a U.S. Supreme Court decision that said the state cannot require people who use the federal form to provide additional proof of citizenship. Horne’s office said Arizona has filed suit to change the federal form to allow the state to require proof of citizenship. In Maricopa County, Recorder Helen Purcell said around 900 people used the federal form but didn’t include additional proof of citizenship, such as a driver’s license number.
Arizona: Ballots could split federal, state races to enforce citizenship-to-vote law | Arizona Daily Star
Secretary of State Ken Bennett is directing election officials to separate their federal election ballots from state and local races to keep those who cannot prove citizenship from voting in the latter. Bennett’s order followed a formal opinion Monday by state Attorney General Tom Horne. He conceded that, for the time being, Arizona must allow people who use a special form designed by the federal Election Assistance Commission to register to vote, even though that form does not require proof of citizenship. Arizona voters mandated such proof in 2004. But the U.S. Supreme Court concluded Congress is entitled to require states to accept the federally designed registration form. Horne said Monday that he believes that directive applies only to elections for federal offices like the president and congressional races, which he believes frees Arizona to apply its proof-of-citizenship mandate for anyone who wants to vote for anything from governor on down the ballot.
Arizona elections officials are preparing to use a dual-track voting system in next year’s elections that would require the use of two different ballots, depending on how a voter was registered. Under the system, voters who registered with federal registration forms would be allowed to vote only in federal elections, while those who used state forms and showed proof of citizenship would be allowed to vote in federal, state and local contests. The move is expected to affect 900 people and cost an extra $250,000 in Maricopa County alone. The shift, triggered by an opinion Monday from state Attorney General Tom Horne, was immediately labeled as a restriction on voting rights. But Horne and Secretary of State Ken Bennett said the move is necessary to comply with an Arizona voter mandate as well as federal law. The new procedure singles out the several thousand Arizonans who registered to vote using the federal registration form, which does not require documents to prove U.S. citizenship. Those voters are eligible to vote only in federal elections, Horne wrote, with the next opportunity being in August, when all nine congressional seats are on the ballot.
Arizona officials will seek to ban residents from voting in statewide races if they can’t prove citizenship — a move that critics called vindictive in light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said the state couldn’t require such documentation to cast ballots for federal offices. The change was announced Monday by Attorney General Tom Horne and Secretary of State Ken Bennett, both Republicans. “Because Arizona law requires a registration applicant to provide evidence of citizenship, registrants who have not provided sufficient evidence of citizenship should not be permitted to vote in state and local elections,” Horne wrote in an opinion that was intended to give guidance on how to conduct the 2014 elections. The Supreme Court in June struck down part of a 2004 voter-approved state law that required proof of legal U.S. residency to vote in any Arizona elections.
Arizona: Group opposing voter referendum on new election law wants some signatures tossed | Associated Press
A group supporting a sweeping new Republican-backed election law wants the Secretary of State’s office to invalidate some petitions demanding a voter referendum. Wednesday’s letter from lawyers for a group calling itself Stop Voter Fraud demanded that Secretary of State Ken Bennett throw out signatures on petitions collected by four circulators because they’re allegedly felons. Bennett spokesman Matt Roberts said the Secretary of State by law can’t toss the petitions. “They’re asking us to do things that we’re not statutorily able to do,” Roberts said. “Usually these things move through the courts and I expect this to be no different.” The bill was backed by Republicans and passed in the last hours of the legislative session in June over the opposition of Democrats. They called it a thinly veiled effort to keep Republicans in power by creating new hurdles for low-income voters and some candidates.