Election Transparency Bill Has Bipartisan Support

Election Transparency Bill Has Bipartisan Support

By Daniel Stefanski |

An Arizona legislative proposal to increase transparency into state elections is slowly making progress through the Senate, and it appears to have some bipartisan support.

SB 1324, sponsored by Senator Ken Bennett, “requires a county recorder to publish a list of eligible voters, with outlined information, on the county recorder’s website 10 days before a primary and general election,” and it “requires the Secretary of State to digitally publish a list of all persons who voted in an election, all ballot images and a sortable cast vote record” – according to the purpose provided by the Arizona Senate.

In defense of his bill after shepherding it through the Committee of the Whole session, Senator Bennett said, “The answer to confidence in our elections is transparency. As leaders of this state, we should not fear transparency. Candidates, whether they’re winners or losers, should not fear transparency. County and state election officials should not fear transparency. If things were done right in the election, there’s no need to fear that detailed information being released so people can verify.”

During the Committee of the Whole session, three amendments were added to the bill – two from the bill sponsor and one from Democrat Senator Christine Marsh. Bennett alluded to Democrat Secretary of State (SOS) Adrian Fontes supporting his second amendment, which would prohibit “the SOS, county recorder and other county officer in charge of elections from altering or adding any voter data as part of any security measure in implementing the requirements relating to voter lists and ballot images.”

The multifaceted Marsh amendment “requires the SOS to establish and administer an electronic portal to receive requests for access to the ballot image materials”; “requires, for a person requesting access to the materials, the SOS to require the person’s contact information and a declaration signed by the person stating that the person will not use the material for a commercial purpose as prescribed by statute, alter the images or information, or use the information or images for voter intimidation”; and “classifies, as a class 5 felony, the act of using any portion of a voter list or ballot image for a commercial purpose or intentionally altering any information of images of the voter lists, ballot images or cast vote record.”

Marsh was asked if she would support SB 1324 after her amendment was adopted and told her Republican colleagues that she was still a no on the bill.

Bennett explained that his bill is about “four pieces of data: before the election, release the list of people eligible to vote in the election; after the election and canvass, release the list of who voted in the election; the ballot images – there should be one ballot image for everyone on the who-voted-list; the cast-vote record, which is a spreadsheet with the votes of individual anonymous ballots.” He engaged several questions and answers from his Democrat colleagues during the Committee of the Whole session.

In February, the Senate Elections Committee, chaired by Senator Wendy Rogers, approved the legislation with a party-line 5-3 vote.

Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, a Republican, announced his support for SB 1324 back in February after it passed through the Senate Elections Committee. Richer stated, “Elections work when there is openness and transparency. SB 1324 does that by creating a system where each county recorder can inform voters before and after every election about who is eligible to vote while protecting voter confidentiality. All three – the list of eligible voters, the list of who voted, and the cast vote record – will be available to anyone who wants them. SB 1324 and Speaker Ben Toma’s legislation, HB 2560, contain similar language and will further strengthen our elections by enshrining the kind of transparency that can build public trust in our elections.”

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