adrian fontes
Arizona Lawmakers Share Concerns With Election Procedure Manual Development

August 7, 2023

By Daniel Stefanski |

Arizona Republican Legislators continue to share their concerns about the progression of the latest Election Procedure Manual (EPM).

On Friday, Arizona State Representatives Michael Carbone and Steve Montenegro issued a press release, “criticizing an extremely short public comment period set by Secretary of State Adrian Fontes for his 2023 EPM.” They demanded that Fontes “extend the deadline for public comment” after the state’s election chief set the deadline for August 15.

In a statement, Carbone said, “Requiring public comments to be submitted by August 15th is simply too restrictive and does not provide adequate time for interested stakeholders to review the draft 2023 EPM for compliance with state law. It is our understanding that several provisions have already been identified that appear to run afoul of state law. We urge Secretary Fontes to extend the public comment deadline to at least September 1, 2023, to give the public an adequate opportunity to review and provide input on the most important elections manual that will guide county officials in administering their duties in the 2024 elections.”

Montenegro added, “The Elections Procedures Manual is of paramount importance to ensuring the integrity and security of election administration in Arizona. Secretary Fontes should have given the public more than 15 days to review his extensive 259-page draft of the EPM and submit comments. A longer comment period is particularly necessary and reasonable this year because Arizona has not had a legally compliant EPM since 2019.”

Carbone and Montenegro encouraged “Arizona voters to participate in the process to keep both elected and unelected election officers transparent and accountable” by submitting public comments to the draft EPM.

On Tuesday, August 1, Secretary Fontes commenced the 15-day public comment period for the 2023 EPM. Fontes wrote, “As a former County Recorder, I understand how important this manual is for the dedicated Arizonans who are entrusted with one of the toughest and most important jobs in our democracy. In an atmosphere of heightened scrutiny of our elections, local and county officials need clear guidance based on law. Now that we are at the start of our public comment period, I look forward to continuing this important conversation about a document that is essential to the running of safe, secure, and accurate elections in every corner of our state.”

Fontes emphasized the input that had already gone into the drafting of the EPM, assuring readers “It is important that the people who administer Arizona’s elections – the statutorily required stakeholders – be given the first opportunity to suggest changes. He revealed that his office had initiated “a series of monthly meetings with local and county election officials to suggest changes and garner feedback.”

The warning from Carbone and Montenegro follows a recent letter that was transmitted to Secretary Fontes by Representatives Jacqueline Parker and Alexander Kolodin, who highlighted certain issues with the initial copy of the EPM that they had seen from his office. That letter from the two legislators, written just days before Fontes allowed the public to view the document, identified eight possible violations of Arizona statutes in four chapters of the draft EPM. 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.”

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

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