From their pulpit at press conferences, they shrugged off questions and concerns about the potential for long lines on election day and whether they would have their voting centers properly equipped. For weeks, the mainstream media blasted out to Arizonans that they are competent election officials, about to implement the “safest, most secure” election in history.
Then it all came crumbling down in what was one of the worst election days in recent history. Long lines, yes. But more importantly, critical equipment failures resulted in the complete inability to tabulate ballots at dozens of voting locations for several hours. It didn’t stop there. The issues persisted in the coming weeks for Maricopa County, who responded to requests for information with hostility. And then, we found out Pinal County (following major problems in their primary election) had miscounted hundreds of ballots, shrinking the already miniscule gap between the candidates for attorney general.
Two months later, these issues are still being litigated. But regardless of how the election contests being pursued by Kari Lake and Abe Hamadeh turn out, nothing changes the fact that Maricopa and Pinal Counties bungled the election.
Going forward, Arizona must learn from what happened, craft meaningful solutions, and focus efforts on productive goals ahead of 2024…
Two election integrity bills sponsored by Sen. JD Mesnard were signed into law by Gov. Doug Ducey this week in an effort to ensure consistency among the state’s 15 counties and more quickly remove ineligible voters from the rolls.
Senate Bill 1260 amends Arizona’s election law to require the state’s 15 county recorders to cancel someone’s voter registration upon confirmation that the person has registered to vote in another county. This will include removing the voter from the Active Early Voting used to mail ballots to voters signed up to received them in advance of election day.
SB1260 also makes it a Class 6 felony for any person to “knowingly” assist someone to vote in Arizona if the voter is registered in another state. This allows criminal charges to be filed is if someone forwards an Arizona early ballot to a voter at an address other than what is listed on the early ballot packet.
The legislation takes effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns for the session, so the provisions could be in place before the 2022 General Election.
Meanwhile, Senate Bill 1362 adds a new statute describing the process for on-site tabulation of early ballots brought by voters to a polling place on Election Day. Currently, those in-person “drop offs” might not be tabulated until the next day, a practice each county recorder or election director will now have the authority to set.
SB1362 also tweaks the criteria for when a county’s board of supervisors may reduce the number of polling places during an election. And it better defines the methods which election officials can use to reduce voter wait times at in-person polling places.
It too takes effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns for the session.
According to Mesnard (R-Chandler), the bills will help improve voter confidence in our elections.
“Democratic systems only work if our elections are secure and their integrity unmatched,” he said after the signing. “That means ensuring that each person has one vote and that their vote is properly counted.”
Cochise County Recorder David Stevens is one of the election officials across Arizona who closely followed Mesnard’s bills. He told Arizona Daily Independent his county already has a procedure for when a voter reportedly moves away, but there is a delay in dropping the voter until a notice to be mailed and a response received.
Under SB1260, the process will be sped up by not having to wait to hear back from the voter. This allows county recorders to cancel the voter’s registration upon official confirmation of new registration in another county.
As to the section of SB1260 making it a crime to forward someone’s early ballot to another address, Stevens noted he is waiting to hear what the consequences will be, and whether the statute applies to U.S. Postal Service personnel involved in the forwarding process.
Stevens explained that some counties already offer election day tabulation of early ballots as described in SB1362. On-site tabulation provides a “a more complete election total” which Stevens calls “a good thing.”
He added that while the provisions of SB1362 will entail more work, it will be minimal.
“In the long run, any attempt to have clean rolls is worth the work,” Stevens said.
The Arizona Capitol was astir on Wednesday after House leadership entertained the notion of dispatching law enforcement to track down two Republican members needed to pass three election integrity bills. Ultimately, the idea was nixed, the legislators never came back, and the three bills failed — but leadership and the two lawmakers are at odds as to who was to blame.
House Speaker Rusty Bowers (R-Mesa) and Majority Leader Ben Toma (R-Peoria) contemplated dispatching Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers to locate State Representatives Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek) and Jacqueline Parker (R-Mesa) in order to pass three bills: SB1013, SB1260, and SB1362. Though the bills failed, all three will be reconsidered.
Hoffman accused Bowers and Toma of engaging in intimidation tactics. On “The Conservative Circus” radio show, Hoffman claimed that Bowers knew days in advance that he was missing multiple Republican votes for certain election bills, but decided to wait to utilize law enforcement on the day of voting. He said that was why Bowers and Toma were to blame for the three election integrity bills’ failure.
“The bottom line is that Rusty Bowers and Ben Toma knew they were missing Republican votes yesterday, yet they decided to put up election integrity bills up for vote so that they would fail,” said Hoffman. “Rusty Bowers chose to play petty political games with critical election integrity bills, and then attempted to wield the power of tyrants to send armed men to his own conservative members to clean up his mess.”
Hoffman said that Bowers issued disparate treatment in sending DPS after him, noting that Bowers refused to send DPS after Democrats last year who staged a walkout during budget voting.
“Last year when Democrats all over the country, including right here in Arizona, were weaponizing their legislative attendance to try to kill election integrity legislation, when they were running and hiding in an attempt to prevent a quorum, the conservatives were the ones who asked Rusty Bowers last year to send DPS in a legitimate government role to bring them back to the capitol, and he refused to even consider it every single time it was brought up,” said Hoffman.
Hoffman claimed that Bowers and Toma were “playing games” with election integrity bills. He insisted that the pair forced every House representative to sit around for an hour as they planned to send officers to his and Parker’s homes.
In response to Hoffman’s accusations, Bowers explained that Hoffman and Parker walked away from the House floor to influence voting in the Senate. He blamed Hoffman and Parker for the failure of the three election integrity bills.
“House rules permit us to compel members back to vote,” stated Bowers. “Let me be clear, sending DPS was discussed but was never deployed in any fashion. Any notion otherwise is a lie. Because we were missing votes, 3 election integrity bills failed on the House floor.”
Parker made light of media coverage of the situation. She alluded to live reporting from Arizona Republic reporter Mary Jo Pitzl, who relayed that Parker and Hoffman were called “Bonnie and Clyde” by those on the floor and stated falsely that DPS was dispatched.
“Bonnie and Clyde? Is the same press that called us ‘fiscal hawks’ last year now comparing us to bank robbers? More like Robin Hood & Lil John standing up to King Rusty & Sheriff of Nottingham Toma,” wrote Parker. “Just wait until the budget comes out & the real bank robbers are exposed!”
A total of seven out of election integrity bills considered by the Arizona Senate Government Committee on Monday were passed; due to time constraints, an additional six bills were held for later discussion. The committee passed the bills 4-3, every time along party lines, with the exception of State Senator Martín Quezada’s (D-Glendale) vote for SB1411.
Among those passed were SB1362, requiring every county recorder to tabulate early ballots at a polling place or voting center by 2024; SB1404, repealing the Active Early Voting List (AEVL) and limiting early ballot voting eligibility to those who expect to be absent from their precinct at the time of the election, are physically unable to go to the polls, are 65 or older, whose residence is over 15 miles from the polling place or precinct, can’t attend to polls on election day due to their religion, have a visual impairment, or qualifies as eligible via the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act; SB1411, requiring counties with over 100,000 citizens provide an early ballot tracking system for their citizens by 2024; SB1357, prohibiting elections machines or devices that were certified by laboratories not accredited at time of certification; SB1358, requiring ballots from counties with voting centers to be separated and grouped by precinct; SB1457, requiring the Secretary of State (SOS) to ensure election machines meet standards such as no internet access, ability to sustain and track multiple users with unique credentials, and updated operating systems and software that match U.S. Department of Homeland Security standards; and SB1474, declaring primary and general election days as state holidays, prohibiting voting locations from being used as on-site early voting, and establishing voting on election day only.
For SB1357, State Senator Hatathlie said she couldn’t vote for the bill because nobody had answered whether or not the machines that were used during the last election were certified.
State Senator Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa) reminded the floor that there was testimony addressing Hatathlie’s concerns; she said that she also learned the EAC missed members so that they couldn’t vote.
“I’m not sure if that’s why they let the accreditation lapse for some of these groups, but at the time that they certified these machines they did not have a valid accreditation. Therefore it’s in question whether or not they certified [the machines] legally,” said Townsend.
The Arizona Association of Counties (AACo) spoke out against several bills, including: SB1358, SB1457, and SB1474.
AACo Executive Director Jennifer Marson argued that SB1358’s requirement to separate ballots by precinct would take counties backwards. Townsend rebutted that vote centers made it more difficult to weed out “bad actors” stuffing ballots and overvoting, versus tabulations that take place at the precinct level. Marson then argued that centers have the ability to access precinct totals and other pertinent organizational information through election management software. Townsend responded that compiling all the ballots together without separation for precinct would make review of them difficult if not impossible after initial counting, especially for audits. She used the example of her time at the retail clothing chain, Miller’s Outpost, prior to electronic filing, meaning she relied on an expansive paper filing system to check customers’ credit card information. Similar to ballots, Townsend argued, the necessity of breaking down all of that stored information into categories and subcategories made it easier to locate and review.
As for SB1457, AACo Senior Legislative Associate Megan Kintner informed the committee that their equipment wouldn’t allow for their operations to create individualized codes for every single poll worker. She added that the bill’s requirement for additional observers would be difficult to satisfy because they already had a hard time securing volunteers. Kittner also noted that the bill didn’t address what counties should do when volunteers don’t show up. Townsend responded that Kittner’s colleague, Marson, told her that the unique log-ins were possible to do, with the exception of volunteers checking people in for poll books, and suggested that Kittner check back in with Marson on that information. Majority Whip Sonny Borrelli (R-Lake Havasu City) ignored Kintner’s concerns of logistics, emphasizing the greater need for accountability. Borrelli also challenged the general notion that no backdoor access was possible with election machines.
“Nothing is ‘not hackable,’ so let’s put as much prevention in it as possible. I’ve said this before: keep locks on your doors, keep honest people honest,” insisted Borrelli. “The intent is, whoever’s going to log into the system, we need to know who they are,”
SB1457 may receive some additional language; Borrelli was open to a suggestion from Townsend on adding an accountability aspect for video streams that get interrupted, such as a requirement to stop counting. Borrelli noted that even the legislature has to pause its operations when their streaming system goes down.
Townsend said that the bill would ward off bad actors relying on ease of access through community log-ins. She referenced the Miller’s Outpost operations again, noting that they had unique log-ins for their employees.
Marson said that voting machines have existed in America since 1881, and that states back then could select their own election day. The referenced voting machine relied on push button and interlock mechanics to select only single candidates per race and then reset for a new vote after the voter left the booth. When Townsend asked how long it took precincts to count votes when they counted by hand only, Marson said she didn’t know and couldn’t find the answer. However, Marson said that records reflected that states had several months to file their results, meaning they didn’t have a rush to complete their work in a day.
“I think this just underscores the idea that we should do a lot of research to see what can be restored, and what makes sense and what doesn’t,” said Townsend.
Although the committee denied Quezada’s amendment to SB1474 removing language about prohibiting voting locations from being used as on-site early voting, Townsend revealed that some within the Republican caucus oppose the bill, meaning she’ll have to make inroads with
“I still think that precinct voting on the day of and having a holiday is better, but we have to get it on the governor’s desk,” said Townsend.
Marson spoke up again to question how the elections would be conducted if public bodies were ordered to be closed, and asked when elections officials running the elections would have time to vote. Her questions weren’t addressed. Committee Democrats insisted that there wasn’t evidence of widespread fraud that necessitated this bill.
Due to time constraints, Townsend held the other bills for review another day: SB1058, prohibiting drive-up voting and voting through a drop box outside of a polling place, voting center, or the offices of either the county recorder or elections department; SB1343, requiring all early, provisional, and conditional provisional ballots to be separated, tabulated, and recorded by their precinct and category; SB1359, requiring all elections workers to have a unique password for accessing any election system, which would be changed every two weeks; SB1360, expanding rights for election observers such as documenting their observations, appealing an ejection from the election location, and asking questions of election officials; SB1380, requiring county recorders to use USPS National Change of Address (NCOA) information to weed out voters whose address changed; and SB1477, requiring the Secretary of State (SOS) to notify county recorders of relevant felony convictions every month.