Notably missing from a final version of Arizona’s elections manual approved Friday by Gov. Doug Ducey is a provision the Navajo Nation threatened to sue over if it was removed.
It’s one of more than 100 changes the Attorney General’s Office made to Secretary of State Katie Hobbs’ draft version of the manual, which will guide how county election officials handle the 2020 elections. Hobbs’ staff were still reviewing all the changes by press time.
Hobbs added a five-day window after Election Day for voters who forgot to sign their early ballot envelopes to rectify the mistake as part of a legal settlement with the Navajo Nation. It brought the statewide practice on missing signatures in line with a law passed this year creating a five-day window for inconsistent signatures.
But critics including Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, said Hobbs overreached with the manual. Ugenti-Rita authored the law that created a curing window for inconsistent signatures, and has filed legislation for the 2020 session to bar county election officials from letting anyone correct a missing signature, regardless of when they turn in their ballot.
“There needs to be clarity in the law regarding ballots that have no signature,” Ugenti-Rita told the Arizona Capitol Times earlier this month . “At least in Maricopa County, in big red letters it says that if you don’t sign, it’s not counted. We need to make sure that’s reflected in the law as well.”
The revised manual approved by Ducey will give voters until 7 p.m. on Election Day to sign the ballot envelope or request a new ballot.
The Navajo Nation’s attorney general threatened additional litigation over Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s changes.
Rep. Arlando Teller, D-Chinle, said in a written statement Friday he supports any actions the Navajo Nation takes to reverse Brnovich’s decision. Ballots are not printed in Diné, the tribe’s native language, and therefore providing five days to cure ballots is fair and equitable, he said.
“Arizona should be removing barriers for eligible voters to cast their ballots, not putting up more roadblocks,” Teller said.
Brnovich’s revisions also changed the reasons for which counties can electronically review votes. Hobbs’ draft would have allowed counties to use electronic adjudication programs to review blank or over-voted ballots and write-in votes.
The revised version permits electronic tallying of write-in votes, which Hobbs spokeswoman C. Murphy Hebert said is an “improved efficiency at least.” Some counties are already beginning to pursue legislation to allow electronic authorization in response to changes in the manual, Hebert said.
Manual revisions still allow some changes supported by voting rights groups and criticized by Republican lawmakers. Among these is a footnote saying that student IDs issued by a public college or university could be used as valid IDs for voting, provided they include the student’s name, photo and residential address.
Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, has filed a bill that would bar students from using school-issued IDs to vote, even with an address added.