More troubles in the Secretary of State’s office

Earlier this week Arizona’s queen of voter suppression, Secretary of State Michele Reagan, was once again in trouble for  poor management of her office. More stumbles at Arizona Secretary of State’s Office:

Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan’s office has hit some rough spots as it tries to put into practice all of the changes wrought by the campaign-finance overhaul it steered through the Legislature last year.

The office started the new year by notifying political-action committees that their registration was canceled. A few days later, it sent committee officers a memo walking that back.

Then came the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday weekend, where frustrated candidates said they couldn’t navigate the new website to report their contributions and expenditures by a Jan. 15 deadline. Some candidates reported the website wouldn’t accept their attempts to enter campaign expenses.

“It’s frustrating,” said former state Rep. Chris Ackerley, a Tucson Republican. “It seems like we’re in a twilight-zone thing.”

He was heading up to the Secretary of State’s Office for guidance on how to complete his report and not run afoul of the new law.

New lawmaker Pamela Powers Hannley, D-Tucson, said she and her husband, who served as her campaign treasurer, spent the holiday weekend trying to complete her report, to no avail. She left messages for the secretary of state as well as the Clean Elections Commission, since she ran under the commission’s public-campaign-finance system. She heard back from the commission after the weekend, but it didn’t fix her problems with the secretary of state’s website.

As of Thursday, she had not heard from the secretary’s office.

Officials in Reagan’s office cited technical problems in transitioning from the old reporting system, as well as staffing shortages. And although the new law mandated the Jan. 15 deadline, the office told candidates it wouldn’t file complaints against stragglers.

Shortly after this report, the Secretary of State’s office sent out a PR email telling me about all the wonderful things that Michele Reagan is doing. I seem to get these PR emails only when Reagan is in the news with negative press. Go figure.

Then the Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reported a story from the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting, County recorders call relationship with Secretary of State ‘dire’:

Arizona’s 15 county recorders this week delivered a letter to Secretary of State Michele Reagan in which they said communication between their offices and hers are “in a dire state” because state Election Director Eric Spencer has been “ineffective and disrespectful.”

The county recorders said in the Jan. 23 letter that Spencer has been verbally abusive, “rude” and “dismissive” of questions posed to him by the recorders and their staffs. In one instance, they wrote, Spencer said the recorders were “incompetent,” and that he has refused to answer “questions of critical importance posed by those same elections officials.”

The recorders also said Spencer has neglected statutory obligations and created legal and ethical conflicts with his demands that recorders remove voters from registration rolls.

The recorders demanded that their communications with Reagan’s office moving forward not only be “conducted with respect and professionalism,” but also include Reagan herself.

Secretary of State spokesman Matt Roberts said that, after Reagan received the letter, she spoke on the phone with Coconino County Recorder Patty Hansen, the president of the Arizona County Recorders Association, and that Reagan is encouraged by their conversation.

“(Reagan) is going to communicate with all of the county recorders, as she has in the past,” Roberts said. “And she’s excited about the opportunities we have in 2017 to work together with the recorders, as she always has.”
Hansen said the phone call left her optimistic.

“What we’re going to do is, the officers of the association are going to try to set up a time to meet with Secretary Reagan, to sit down with her and her staff members to see how we move forward,” she said.
Hansen said demands to purge voters from voter files came up during a meeting of the county recorders.
Roberts declined to comment about the letter’s description of demands to remove voters from the rolls.

“We will let the authors of the letter address that,” he said.

Sadie Bingham, the Gila County Recorder, said the Secretary of State’s office sent her office a list of voters, with instructions to remove them from the voter rolls, but that the request did not include the reason for removal. Bingham said such requests aren’t uncommon, but that they are legally required to come with a reason, such as re-registering in a new state.

When Bingham saw the purge list, but no justification, she called the Secretary of State’s Office to ask for proper documentation.

“Eric (Spencer) got on the phone and said, ‘I don’t care. It came from the Secretary of State’s Office. This is what we’re telling you to do,’” Bingham said. “I looked at my general counsel, because he was in the room, and we were both kind of taken aback.”

Bingham said that, after inspecting the list again, she recognized a name.

“I know her personally. She’s a volleyball coach, who works with the kids here,” Bingham said.

Bingham said she didn’t see a reason the woman should be purged, so she called the Secretary of State’s Office a second time.

“Eric got on the phone with us again. He said, ‘I don’t see what the big deal is, why can’t you just cancel them?’” Bingham said.

Bingham said she tried a third time, telling the Secretary of State’s Office that she would not remove the voters without proper documentation, and that she did not receive any follow-up.

“So, I haven’t cancelled them,” Bingham said. “I wouldn’t do that.”

Laurie Roberts of the Arizona Republic writes, County elections officials: we have ‘dire’ relationship with Michele Reagan’s office:

It’s not often that elected county officials complain about elected state officials – at least publicly.

But when all 15 county recorders publicly complain about the Secretary of State’s Office? That’s fairly astonishing.

And when the complaints involve Arizona’s elections and include claims that the state’s elections director ordered them to purge certain voters from the registry without giving them a reason? That’s beyond astonishing.

Who is Spencer? Oh, that guy

The excellent Evan Wyloge of the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting this week broke the story about the rift. It seems the county recorders sent a letter to Secretary of State Michele Reagan, complaining that communications between their offices and hers are “in a dire state” due to her elections director, Eric Spencer.

Most people likely don’t recognize the name. Spencer is not the non-partisan bureaucrat you might expect to find in a position that oversees Arizona’s elections. Instead, Reagan tapped a Republican lawyer who specialized in elections law, a guy who just coincidentally worked with Gov. Doug Ducey’s lawyer, Mike Liburdi, at Snell & Wilmer before the 2014 elections.

Spencer wrote last year’s campaign finance “reform” that was signed into law by Ducey – the one that will usher even more “dark money” into Arizona’s campaigns next year [the “dark money on steroids” bill].

Yeah, that guy.

Officials: This is ‘verbal abuse’

It seems Spencer has been busy throwing his weight around and county officials are fed up. According to their Jan. 23 letter to Reagan, he’s been “a most ineffective and disrespectful liaison.” He is “rude” and “dismissive,” “rising to the level of verbal abuse.”

“He has refused to provide a statutorily required elections procedures manual which provides critical guidance for elections officials, and demanded voters purged from voter files, creating an unnecessary legal and ethical conflict,” they wrote.

Whoa.

* * *

Who made them the arbiters?

I put a call into the Secretary of State’s Office asking for an explanation of why the state’s elections director would be trying to prevent people in Gila County from voting. Why he would refuse — three times — to provide a legally required justification for his demand.

Was that volleyball coach among the supposed three million illegal voters who denied Donald Trump the popular vote?

Or have Spencer — and by extension his boss Reagan — decided that they are the ultimate arbiters of who may vote in Arizona and who may not — no questions from pesky county officials welcome, thankyouverymuch?

SOS spokesman Matt Roberts says Reagan has asked Spencer for an explanation.

Stay tuned.

One response to “More troubles in the Secretary of State’s office

  1. For Sure Not Tom

    Spencer is a piece of work. He thinks he works for politicians and donors instead of Arizonans.

    He hates the Citizens Clean Elections Commission and on his twitter feed he actually said this “Over-broad investigatory power is a form of speech suppression”.

    Which to me reads as lawyer double-speak for, “We’re corrupt, we’re planning on being more corrupt, so how about you F-off.”

    This guy is MY employee, damn right he’s going to be explaining to his BOSS what he’s up to.

    Fire him now.