Draft Elections Procedures Manual Raises Questions, Concerns For Lawmakers

July 29, 2023

By Daniel Stefanski |

Two Arizona Republican legislators are raising concerns over a draft of the new Elections Procedures Manual (EPM) from Secretary of State Adrian Fontes.

On July 18, Representatives Jacqueline Parker, the Chairwoman of the Arizona House Committee on Municipal Oversight & Elections, and Alexander Kolodin, the Committee’s Vice Chair, transmitted a letter to Secretary Fontes, highlighting certain issues with the initial copy of the EPM that they had seen from his office.

The lawmakers were grateful that Fontes allowed them to see his draft, and they expressed optimism that “with legislative guidance, the 2023 EPM will not meet the same fate as the 2021 EPM, and that Arizonans will be assured that all drafts, including the final draft presented to the Governor and Attorney General, are legally consistent with Arizona election law.” They called the 2021 saga “both unprecedented and unacceptable,” writing, “Your predecessor’s failure to issue a lawful EPM ultimately led a court to decide that the 2019 EPM was in effect for Arizona’s 2022 elections, rather than an updated, legally compliant 2021 EPM.”

In their letter to Secretary Fontes, Parker and Kolodin identified eight possible violations of Arizona statutes in four chapters of the draft EPM:

– Chapter 1: Early Voting

o “Part I, page 5 moves ‘date of birth’ from required information to additional information that may be provided by a voter to receive an early ballot.”

o “Part I, page 3 allows the County Recorder to send a requested early ballot ‘after 5:00pm the 11th day preceding the election if the County Recorder has sufficient time to do so.”

o “Part I, page 16 requires the County Recorder or officer in charge of elections to supply printed instructions that ‘provide the voter instructions on how to make their intent clear if they inadvertently mark the target area for a candidate or ballot measure.’”

o “Part I, page 18 includes the exclusion of an established Ballot Replacement Center.”

– Chapter 2: Ballot-by-Mail Elections

o “Part I, page 31 refers to ‘precinct with 300 or less registered voters.’”

– Chapter 7: Pre-Election Procedures

o “Part II, page 34 allows the officer in charge of elections to allocate specified duties to any board member as deemed appropriate, including ‘taking appropriate measures to preserve order, prevent voter intimidation, and manage voter lines.’”

– Chapter 8: Election Day Operations

o “Part III, page 8 adds additional examples ‘potentially intimidating conduct’ that supersedes statutory law.”

o “Part III, page 19 adds language that prohibits a challenger from speaking to a challenged voter to ‘prevent harassment and intimidation of the challenger voter.’”

The two Representatives also requested that “future drafts of the EPM contain statutory references for each provision to provide county officials with the statutory source of each EPM provision.” Parker and Kolodin pointed out two sections in the draft EPM where there were no statutory references – as examples to illustrate their issue.

As they concluded their letter to the state’s elections chief, the legislators commented that they “are looking forward to seeing these provisions addressed prior to the EPM’s submittal to the Governor and the Attorney General on October 1, 2023.” They promised to communicate in a timely manner with the Secretary’s Office “about any other concerns that might arise,” and they asked for a written response to their letter by July 25.

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.

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