By Corinne Murdock |
The Maricopa County Recorder’s Office says third-party voter turnout organizations using government seals have sent voter registration forms to ineligible voters and, in at least one instance, a dog.
Aaron Flannery, a government affairs official for the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office, revealed this during the Senate Elections Committee meeting. Flannery spoke in favor of a bill proposing mandatory disclosures on election-related mailers from nongovernmental entities or persons. He noted that the county receives frequent complaints about third-party mailers containing voter registration forms and pre-paid postage to their office.
“We did receive the following emails: from a very smart resident who said, ‘I am not a U.S. citizen, why are you sending me this?’ We had one from an upset resident saying ‘My spouse has been dead for 11 years and I have provided the death certificate. What kind of operation are you running there?’ And another confused resident — and this one really gets me — saying, ‘Jada is a dog. She cannot vote,’” said Flannery.
The bill, SB 1066, would require the phrase “not from a government agency” displayed in boldfaced, legible type on the outside of the envelope and on the document inside. The inner disclosure must make up at least 10 percent of the size of the document, or less than an inch on a standard 8.5-inch flyer or mailer brochure.
According to Flannery, third-party groups sent nearly 109,700 letters containing voter registration forms during the last primary election. Of these, voters returned 3,284 to the recorder’s office. Of those, 2,681 contained updated voter information, 365 had been addressed to deceased voters, and 234 contained brand-new registrations.
Flannery noted that this has been an issue for over a decade. These third-party organizations get their mailing lists from mass-mined data. Flannery said that SB1066 would alleviate voter confusion and improve voter confidence in county elections.
“It is not a voter suppression bill, it is a voter confidence bill,” said Flannery. “We are against mass mailings that are easily mistaken for official election mail that can lead to confusion.”
Flannery explained that the county has its own voter registration notification system for eligible voters, called “Eligible But Not Registered.”
The bill sponsor, State Sen. John Kavanagh (R-LD03), said the bill would prevent organizations from appearing to represent government messaging and interests.
“This is just a matter of transparency,” said Kavanagh.
In addition to the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office, the Arizona Association of Counties issued support of the bill.
All three Democrats on the Senate Elections Committee voted against the bill: State Sens. Juan Mendez (D-LD08), Anna Hernandez (D-LD24), and Priya Sundareshan (D-LD18). They were backed in their opposition by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arizona, the Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter, and All Voting Is Local Arizona.
Mendez questioned whether the bill actually solved a problem or whether it simply created less paperwork for election officials. Mendez insisted that this bill would violate the First Amendment; he claimed that some of his constituents complained that this proposed law was compelling speech.
Kavanagh rebutted that other compelled disclosures, such as cigarette companies notifying smokers of the link between cancer and cigarettes on cartons, weren’t considered to be in violation of the First Amendment.
Kavanagh clarified that the bill wouldn’t necessitate preapproval of election mailers.