Arizona legislature fails to consider real solutions to the problems with our elections


Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

The Arizona Capitol Times has an important report on an Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting analysis of the problems experienced in the 2012 eelction in Arizona. What the report makes clear is that the Arizona legislature is failing to consider real solutions to the problems with our elections, while pursuing bills to place additional burdens on the right to voters. Rejected ballots reflect continuing problems in Arizona’s elections:

Rejected_ballotsTens of thousands of ballots cast in
Arizona’s 2012 election were rejected by elections officials, indicating
continued communication and voter education problems in the state,
according to an analysis by the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting.

Nearly 46,000 of the more than 2.3 million ballots cast in Arizona’s
2012 election – or about 2 percent – were rejected. That rate is down
from 2.2 percent in 2008, when Arizona led the nation in rejected
provisional ballots.

The analysis was based on a review of rejected ballots and interviews with experts and legislators.

The rejected votes consist of early voting
or provisional ballots in which voters went through the voting process
but later had their ballots thrown out after review by elections
officials. The most common reasons were that voters weren’t registered
in time for the election, voted in the wrong precincts or didn’t sign
their ballots.

* * *

Election experts say rejected ballot rates –
and the reasons for rejection – can point to either poor voter
education about Arizona’s election process or inefficiencies in the
state’s election administration efforts. [Bingo!]

Of the 33,000 provisional ballots that
were rejected in 2012, 38 percent were because the voter wasn’t
registered in the state and 33 percent because the voter submitted a
ballot in the wrong precinct.

Election officials said voters who weren’t registered might have
missed the state’s registration cut-off date, which was 29 days before
Election Day. Voters who register after that date are not eligible to
vote in that election.

“If someone thinks that they’re registered and isn’t, then that could
be an element of voter education that we need to improve,” Roberts

Arizona Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, agrees that voter education
is an issue but thinks the 29-day cutoff for registration should be

“Let’s get rid of that deadline and have same-day registration,”
Gallardo said. “It’s ridiculous that such a large number of ballots are
being rejected, and then a large number of people are having their
rights taken away because they did not meet a 29-day cutoff day.”

Voters who cast a ballot in the wrong precinct may have been confused
by redistricting, in which 2010 Census data was used to redraw
congressional and legislative voting districts in Arizona, election
officials said. Redistricting shifted voting precinct boundaries and, in
some places, reduced the number of precincts.

Roberts said this, too, comes back to voter education, adding there
“is a degree of responsibility that voters have to understand where
their correct polling place is.”

Among the more than 12,000 rejected early voting ballots, which
include voters on the permanent early voting list, 42 percent were
rejected because the voter did not sign the ballot and 33 percent
because the voter missed the submission deadline.

Election officials said missing signatures and late ballot submissions also indicate inadequate education.

* * *

Arizona was listed in the bottom third of all U.S. states for election performance in 2008, according to the Elections Performance Index released in February by Pew Charitable Trusts.

The index gauges the efficiency of state-level election
administration based on a series of indicators, including the rate of
provisional and early voting ballots cast, rejection rates and voter
turnout, among others.

When compared to the rest of the nation, Arizona in 2008 had the
highest number of provisional ballots cast and the highest rejection
rate of such ballots as compared to total ballots cast. Nationwide data
is not yet available to compare the 2012 statistics.

Arizonans submitted in 2012 more than 183,000 provisional ballots, or
about 8 percent of all ballots cast. That’s up from 6.5 percent in 2008
and represents the highest number of provisional ballots ever cast here
for a federal election.

So the main issues were (1) voters who registered after the 29 day deadline and were ineligible, or who had moved and did not reregister and were ineligible; (2) voters who voted at the wrong precinct due to redistricting and precinct renumbering/consolidation into voting areas; and (3) voters who did not sign the affidavit on the ballot envelope or missed the mailing deadline.

The solution to these kinds of problems are straightforward. First, the legislature needs to provide funding for public service announcements (PSAs) not just for the Secretary of State but for the 15 County Recorders and Tribal governments. What is that old rule about advertising? A consumer needs to see or hear an ad nine times before it registers with them (or something like that). How many PSAs did you hear during last year's election? The federal HAVA money for public education reportedly is used up, so the state needs to appropriate funds for public education.

Second, Arizona can do what Oregon's Secretary of State is currently proposing: "universal voter registration" that is automatic, permanent (transportable), and correctible (same-day voter registration). 

What is universal voter registration?

In a universal voter registration system, it would be the
government's obligation to ensure that every eligible citizen was
registered to vote. Individual citizens could opt out if they wished,
but the registration process itself would no longer serve as a barrier
to the right to vote.

Here are some of the important ways that federal policy can and
should encourage the states to improve on the current voter registration

1. Mandate that the states put systems in place that would phase in universal voter registration, while preserving the states' ability to experiment with different systems.

2. Require states to immediately implement permanent registration, so that voters wouldn't have to re-register if they moved within a state.

3. Require states to implement Election Day registration, as a fail-safe mechanism for eligible voters missing from the voter rolls for any reason.

4. Provide the funding that states would need to ensure that every eligible voter is registered.

Brennan Center for Justice

In effect, every eligible citizen (i.e., who is not a convicted
felon who has not yet completed his or her sentence, or is otherwise
disqualified by mental condition or guardianship) who is 18 years of age
or older would automatically be registered to vote by the state,
and his or her voter registration would be permanent (i.e.,
transportable) within the state. (A
Brennan Center analysis in 2009 found that 75 percent of countries and
Canadian provinces
automatically register citizens as they become adults and eligible to
vote). The U.S. badly trails the rest of the world.

The state's electronic voter data bases
would be frequently updated (this requires more funds from the legislature). A voter who moves within the statutory
period prior to an election would be permitted to cast a provisional
ballot in his or her new precinct and have their vote counted with
subsequent proof of current address. Or, with same-day voter registration on election day (as exists in several states), it would permit the voter to correct any change of address and to cast a regular ballot.

Finally, Arizona could follow the lead of the states of Oregon and Washington and go to an all-mail balloting system. Most local elections in Arizona are already all-mail balloting, and the large majority of votes cast in elections are by early mail-in ballots. It is a logical next step to go to an all-mail balloting system, and would eliminate the problems inherent with precinct voting systems (and the cost of precinct voting systems).

Has the Secretary of State or Sen. Michele Reagan, who chairs the Senate Elections Committee, advanced any of these common-sense proposals? Nooooo. What have they proposed?

SB 1261 purports to
"clean up" the state’s permanent early voting list (PEVL) by purging
voters from the list who do not vote in four consecutive federal elections. So I guess "permanent" really doesn't mean permanent, now does it? This bill is supported by the County Recorders and is sponsored by Sen. Michele Reagan.

SB 1003 would prohibit paid or volunteer political committee
workers from submitting early ballots on behalf of voters. If passed,
violations of this provision would result in a class-six felony.  Sen. Michele Reagan also sponsored this bill on behalf of Secretary of State Ken "Birther" Bennett.

These are solutions in search of a problem, and will have the unintended consequence of suppressing minority community voting according to voting rights advocates. These bills do nothing to address the real problems experienced in the 2012 election. We are always having the wrong policy conversation in this state.


  1. “Our current system is a FEATURE not a bug for the GOP; their intent is to make it harder to vote, not easier.” Yeah, I am well aware of that.

    Where is the early filer Democrat to run for Secretary of State? Why do we not have a candidate shadowing Sen. Michele Reagan’s every move?

    Sen. Steve Gallardo has been doing the heavy lifting on these election reforms. If he intends to run for Secretary of State, he should file an exploratory committee and start running already.

  2. Au contraire, mon frère!

    They’ve considered the problems long and hard.

    Despite their best efforts we keep electing some pesky Democrats like the worthless low-information moochers we are. Can’t have that!

    Our current system is a FEATURE not a bug for the GOP; their intent is to make it harder to vote, not easier.

    What, you’re under the impression that they think for even a fleeting moment they represent us, and not the deep pockets that pay for their elections??