Historic election cycle uncovers opportunities for improvements
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Matt Roberts, Director of Communications
Phone: (602) 542-2228
Secretary of State Michele Reagan’s legislative fixes to several of the issues that arose during the 2016 election cycle have been formerly introduced in the state legislature. Combined with a comprehensive review of the Elections Procedures Manual this spring, Secretary Reagan seeks solutions to the problems she uncovered during four statewide elections.
Beginning with the lines many voters experienced in Maricopa County during the Presidential Preference Election (PPE), Secretary Reagan is pushing for SB 1391 sponsored by Senator Martín Quezada. The bill would require County Recorders and local election officials to meet annually with the Secretary of State to develop standards related to wait times and the number, location and staffing levels of polling places. In addition, the bill seeks to ensure the proper amount and type of voting equipment used in polling places, and establish best practices for the prevention of intimidation or harassment of voters.
“We all saw the lines during the PPE and existing law does not provide enough guidance on polling place and vote center decisions made by election officials,” said Secretary Reagan. “We’ve discussed several ideas related to decreasing wait times, and Senator Quezada’s legislation seems like a good step in the right direction and I would urge its passage.”
Last October the voter registration deadline for the general election fell on Columbus Day, creating a potential patchwork of deadlines across the state because various counties are open or closed on that day. S.B. 1307 by Senator Kavanagh seeks to solve the problem by moving the registration deadline to the following business day. The bill also moves the deadline that Presidential electors must be filed to later in the year.
“We discovered a couple of instances where statutory constraints caused needless headaches during a busy year,” Ms. Reagan said. “This simple cleanup bill will make it better for voters, candidates and political stakeholders moving forward.”
Arizona law encourages sham candidacies by only requiring someone to be registered with a particular political party at the time they file their petitions. Senator John Kavanagh’s bill SB 1200 closes the loophole and would require candidates to be continuously-registered member of any political party
“We shouldn’t allow candidates the opportunity to game the system,” Reagan continued. “It’s silly that any candidate could change parties halfway through and confuse voters as to their true intentions.”
SB 1200 also includes a provision that bars candidates from running for more than one federal office at the same time, excluding presidential candidates.
“Last year we saw a candidate file for both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, said Reagan. “Arizona law prevents that from happening for state and local races. We feel that federal candidates should be subject to the same rules. While it might be cost-effective to have the same elected official serve in both the U.S. House and Senate simultaneously, I suspect it might be unconstitutional.”
Other election-related bills include:
SB 1305 – Senator Kavanagh
Voting equipment vendors do not necessarily comply with all laws governing ballots and accessible voting equipment. This bill would clarify that voting equipment must comply with state law and the AZSOS procedures manual, including ballot content, format and display.
SB 1238 – Senator Kavanagh
Clarify that early ballot return envelopes must be opaque and not reveal a voter’s vote choices through the envelope.
SB 1306 – Senator Kavanagh
Not all counties immediately report results by what kind of ballot (early, polling place or provisional) which causes voter and media confusion. This bill would require election results to be electronically transmitted in a uniform format statewide.
Secretary Reagan strongly supports HB 2273 (Representative Clark) which would appropriate $2.0 million to the Secretary of State’s office to provide grants to Arizona’s counties for election data systems security improvements. In addition, the bill allows the AZSOS to retain up to $500,000 for cyber security improvements to its own statewide election data systems.
“Our election systems are under attack each day,” Secretary Reagan revealed. “Just last year, our statewide system successfully prevented unauthorized access into the statewide voter registration database. If we want to ensure our data remains secure, we must continue to invest in our defense mechanisms.”
“While this list of legislative priorities will help move things in the right direction, we’re also looking forward to our bringing County Recorders and local election administrators together to suggest revisions and come to a consensus on needed changes to the Election Procedures Manual which should begin shortly.”