Pinal mulls new laws to fix election snafu

Pinal mulls new laws to fix election snafu

Pinal County, primary, ballots, firing
Pinal County officials are considering new laws to make elections run more smoothly in the future after a primary election day fiasco. (Photo by Pexels)

In the wake of a disastrous primary, Pinal County officials are considering new laws for smoother future elections.

Rep. Neal Carter, R-San Tan Valley, said that he has faith in the county’s new recorder and elections director, but he’s pondering ways to restructure the county elections by changing state law. Carter is running for his House seat again in the November general election.

On the Aug. 2 primary Election Day, some Pinal County precincts ran out of ballots and did not print enough for everyone to vote. An unknown number of constituents left the polls without voting when they weren’t provided a ballot. Prior to the primary election, the county also sent out more than 60,000 ballots containing errors regarding town and city races.

Carter said that one of the ideas “floating around” in the county now is to have the county attorney sign off on election procedures before each election is conducted.

Carter, ballots, Pinal County, legislation
Rep. Neal Carter, R-San Tan Valley, says he has faith in Pinal County’s new recorder and elections director, after some precincts in that county ran out of ballots during the primary election. He is considering ways to restructure county elections, though. (Photo Courtesy of Arizona State Legislature)

At a state level, the attorney general must approve the election procedures manual before the election takes place. This year that approval did not go smoothly. Attorney General Mark Brnovich did not sign off on the manual by his deadline of Dec. 31.

Brnovich waited until April to claim that the manual provided by Secretary of State Katie Hobbs was not “legally compliant” and filed suit against Hobbs. Yavapai County Superior Court Judge John Napper – appointed by Governor Doug Ducey – ruled that Brnovich failed to negotiate with Hobbs or respond on time. Napper threw out the complaint and the elections moved on.

Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer said that he hadn’t heard the idea of signing off on election procedures. “Just like the AG must sign off on the election manual at the state level, requiring the county attorney to sign off on the county level makes some sense,” he said in a text on Aug. 24.

Carter filed a lawsuit on Election Day to compel the county to print more ballots but is not going to follow up on it now, he said.

Rep. Teresa Martinez, R-Casa Grande, said on Aug. 24 that she is not interested in pursuing legal action in Pinal County. She won her primary election and is running for a House seat in the general election. Up until now, Martinez couldn’t be reached for comments on the Pinal County election.

Pinal County fired elections Director David Frisk on Aug. 4 and replaced him with former County Recorder Virgina Ross. Then Ross was replaced as recorder by Dana Lewis, who was formerly the assistant to the recorder.

Martinez said of Ross and Lewis, “They seem to be having everything in order and making sure that the snafu that happened does not happen again.”

Rep. John Fillmore, R-Apache Junction, and Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Apache Junction, both lost their primary elections and filed lawsuits to try to undo the results. Townsend’s injunction was dismissed by the court and Fillmore’s hasn’t had any success so far.

Sen. Vince Leach, R-Tucson, had two friends file a lawsuit on his behalf challenging his primary challenger Justine Wadsack, who won in their Senate election.

Other Pinal County legislators Sen. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, and Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, have been quiet about the election. Rogers didn’t respond to requests for comment, but Shope said that he wants to move forward and won’t take legal action. Rogers and Shope were also victorious in their primaries.