By Corinne Murdock |
Election officials’ plan to move up election deadlines in order to accommodate anticipated recounts and meet the federal deadline amounts to election interference, says a former lawmaker.
Michelle Ugenti-Rita — also a candidate for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors (BOS) — claimed that county officials’ push for legislative reform of the election calendar would result in “mass chaos” and lay the necessary groundwork for installing their preferred election reforms.
The anticipated conflict between state election processes and the election deadlines can be traced back to 2022, when the state legislature passed Ugenti-Rita’s bill increasing the threshold for an automatic recount from a tenth to a half of a percent. Later that same year, Congress moved up the deadline for presidential elector certification through the Electoral Count Reform Act (ECRA).
ECRA requires each governor (or, the preferred executive designated by state law) to certify electors six days prior to when electors meet to cast their votes: this year, that would be Dec. 11 and 17, respectively.
That timeline change leads election officials to believe that potential recounts may not be completed by the federal deadline.
Over the weekend, Supervisor Bill Gates said in an interview with 12 News that it would be up to Gov. Katie Hobbs to fix the election calendar to avoid conflict with the federal deadline: a request of 19 days less for the primary and 17 days less for the general election. Gates and other county officials said that the calendar conflict needs to be resolved by Friday, though it would have to be Thursday since the state legislature doesn’t meet on Friday.
“We need to have the primary date moved up seven days, so in order to accomplish that, we need to get going immediately on that,” said Gates. “We need these calendar changes so that voters aren’t disenfranchised.”
However, Ugenti-Rita contended that the calendar change would result in voter disenfranchisement. She also contended that other, non-legislative solutions existed to remedy the timeline conflict, calling Gates’ appeal for a legislative calendar change “election propaganda.”
“There are plenty of non-legislative solutions that can address potential timeline issues, but that’s not good enough for Maricopa County,” said Ugenti-Rita. “Instead of doing their job, they are relying on their leader, Democrat @GovernorHobbs to bail them out.”
Per Ugenti-Rita, non-legislative solutions could have included increasing staffing and shifts, sending sample ballots to party chairs for proofreading, and reducing mail-in ballots by offering military and overseas voters a secure portal of ballot delivery.
County officials brought up their concerns with the possible timeline conflict in September, after the 2023 legislative session had concluded: a move that some claim was intentional.
Arizona Daily Independent first reported that Hobbs and county officials were reneging on a deal acceding to the last-minute demand to condense the election timeline in exchange for the state’s first-ever set of signature verification rules.
The deal, laid out in a 41-page draft bill, would also move the primary to July 30 this year and to the second Tuesday in May by 2026; create a category of verified early ballots exempt from review for voters who show ID when turning in their mailed early ballot in person; expand signature curing hours to the weekend before and after an election for elections that include federal offices; and shrink signature verification and canvassing deadlines. Hobbs spokesman, Christian Slater, said that the bill was “dead on arrival.”
In a press conference last week, Hobbs indicated that she wasn’t sure of the details of the issue but told reporters that the state was “well past the point” of shifting the primary date.
“I actually don’t know what the exact issue is; I know we’ve been going back and forth with the Republican leadership and the election officials and I think we’re very close to agreeing on something,” said Hobbs. “I don’t want to compromise Arizonans’ ability to have their votes counted.”
Slater later clarified to reporters that it was Hobbs’ “personal feelings” that the primary date couldn’t be moved up earlier. Gates indicated to 12 News that Hobbs would ultimately give in to their desire to push up the dates.