Phoenix – With overwhelming bipartisan support from Arizona’s election community, legislation to correct issues that arose during the 2012 general election needs to be approved by the Legislature.
As this year’s legislative session draws to a close, the state’s 15 county recorders, election directors and election administrators -- a group that includes both Republicans and Democrats -- have joined together to urge state lawmakers to pass a measure to improve Arizona’s system of elections and save taxpayers money.
“In order for these changes to be in effect for the 2014 election, the time to act on this important legislation is now,” said Ken Bennett, Arizona secretary of state. “Following last year’s general election, our office met and received input from each of the state’s 15 county recorders and election directors to identify problems they encountered during last year’s busy election cycle. While the majority of the issues will be corrected by changes to our Election Procedures Manual, others require a change to state law. If passed, our bill will dramatically reduce early balloting confusion, improve ballot security and eliminate wasteful spending.”
Arizona’s Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL) allows voters to cast their ballot by mail. While nearly two-thirds of voters participate by mail, an increasing percentage of those who signed up never exercise that right. HB2305 would create a process where county recorders will contact those who haven’t voted in two consecutive primary and general elections to confirm if that is truly their preferred method of voting.
“Election officials around the state described countless instances of voter confusion related to early balloting,” continued Bennett. “Many voters may have forgotten, or were unaware they chose to vote by mail. Many are simply more comfortable casting their ballot at the polls. Either way, mailing ballots to tens of thousands of voters who don’t use them and come to the pools to vote is a waste of time and county resources. With the cost of sending out a ballot around two dollars, this proposal isn’t just good public policy, it’s common sense.”
The legislation also seeks to prevent unauthorized individuals from collecting live ballots. While it is illegal to impersonate an election official, stiff criminal penalties have failed to be a sufficient deterrent and such instances of illegal ballot collection continue to occur.
"The changes proposed by this legislation are aimed at taking politics out of the election process. Plus, they'll speed up ballot counting and save the taxpayers thousands of dollars," said Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez, a Democrat who played a key role in authoring the legislation. "We're glad this has been such a cooperative effort -- one that has embraced input from both parties and that has included so many meetings with concerned stakeholders along the way. We took pains to include language suggested by the bill's supporters and by its opponents. This is a great example of elected leaders working together to make meaningful change for Arizonans and our election process."
In addition to these elections-related improvements, the legislation also makes changes to the filing of initiatives, candidate nomination paperwork and the processing of campaign finance complaints.
“Our state has been on the forefront of election-related improvements for years,” said Secretary Bennett. “From online voter registration to early balloting, our state has been a model for elections around the country. After every election cycle, it is necessary to make statutory changes that are aimed at fixing challenges encountered during the election process. This measure accomplishes that goal.”