Biden is on the cusp of securing Arizona’s 11 electoral votes

President-elect Joe Biden speaks Monday, Nov. 9, 2020, at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President-elect Joe Biden speaks Monday, Nov. 9, 2020, at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Arizona is on the cusp of picking a Democrat for president for the first time in 24 years as Joe Biden held his lead over President Donald Trump in the latest count.

Trump narrowed Biden’s lead to about 11,600, but he’ll need to secure 74% of nearly 25,000 votes left uncounted to secure the state’s 11 electoral votes.

Several news outlets already proclaimed Biden the winner in Arizona, including Decision Desk who called the race tonight in favor of the Democrat. 

Arizona’s recount law is specific. It gets automatically triggered if Trump pulls within 200 votes. There is no other path to a recount in the state.

Political pundits expected Arizona’s election to be close, but, in the end, Biden didn’t need the state’s 11 electoral votes to secure the presidency. News outlets declared Biden the winner after he secured Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes on Nov. 7. 

Biden is in position to win 306 electoral votes – the same margin Trump beat Hillary Clinton by in 2016.

The last time Arizona picked a Democrat occurred during Bill Clinton’s re-election campaign in 1996. Before Clinton, the last Democrat to have won in Arizona was Harry Truman in 1948. At the time, state only had four electoral votes.

Should Biden hold on to his lead, picking a Democrat for president won’t be the only historic feat from this election cycle in the Grand Canyon State. 

Arizona crossed more than three million ballots cast for the first time. The state is projected to hit 80% in voter turnout. The only other time Arizona hit the 80% turnout mark occurred in 1980.

In Maricopa County, the state’s largest, two million ballots were cast for the first time. And the largest county in the state crossed 80% turnout tonight.

Three candidates each received 1 million votes in the county, the first time that’s happened in a contested race.

Sheriff Paul Penzone, a Democrat, soundly defeated Republican challenger Jerry Sheridan. Biden and soon-to-be U.S. Senator Mark Kelly joined shortly after in each securing one million votes.  

Campaign finance websites still broken as election 2020 nears


The 2020 election is a year away and the state’s campaign finance websites are broken.

See The Money – a website that presents data visually – has never worked properly, and the state’s campaign-finance database has had its own set of problems since the 2018 election, and the Secretary of State’s Office is now approaching a crucial deadline. Come January, candidates from throughout the state will be filing their first financial reports for the 2020 campaign cycle and the public will want to follow the money.

See The Money was a pet project of former Secretary of State Michele Reagan, and now Secretary of State Katie Hobbs is in charge of managing and marketing it, and more immediately, trying to fix it.

“It doesn’t work, and we want it to work,” Hobbs said. Her staff has spent the past year focused on improving the reporting side, making sure the information going into the system through Beacon, the new reporting portal, works with the website’s framework and accurately displays that information in a simple and intuitive way.

Hobbs said by election time, things will change.

“Our obligation is to house campaign finance reports and the goal of my administration is transparency to the public and that’s the biggest reason for campaign finance reporting,” Hobbs said. She said it’s crucial for the public to have access to that information, but what limits them, is their role in all of this – her office is a filing agency, not an enforcement agency.

“People think we dig through campaign finance reports and find problems – we don’t,” Hobbs said. “The reason complaints are made and campaign finance reports are found is because the public looks at those reports and they report problems to us. We rely on that.”

But Hobbs said it needs to be a “functional tool” for that to happen, and it’s not there yet. Complaints come mostly from campaign staff, lobbyists, or anyone else involved in politics.

They say it doesn’t display data in a way that is easy to understand. Overlooked campaign finance reporting loopholes and flaws have led to misleading or confusing figures, confusing and infuriating even to the most seasoned political operative. If they can’t understand it, they say, how is the public, who was initially the target demographic, supposed to?

One of them, Arizona Advocacy Network Deputy Director Morgan Dick, said she and her colleagues can’t remember the last time they used the website because they’ve had so many issues with it. Most of Dick’s job deals with digging through campaign finance reports, which can be tedious.

The idea and initial promise of See The Money was a godsend, she said, and it would have made her job easier. It was a great idea, Dick said, but it just wasn’t executed right.

“We often saw things were not congruent with what the campaign finance report said,” Dick said. “These data charts that you can export, they just didn’t accurately display the kind of spending we were seeing in the campaign finance side of the reporting.”

It’s so unreliable that Dick and her coworkers have to use third party sites like Follow The Money, hosted by the National Institute on Money in State Politics, which she said is generally more accurate but still has its issues. With the way things are now, it’s almost always easier, and more accurate, to go to the original documents, copy and paste them into a spreadsheet and do their own analysis, Dick said.

Secretary of State Katie Hobbs in her office. Hobbs said problems with the state’s campaign-finance websites will be fixed by the 2020 election. (Photo by Andrew Nicla/Arizona Capitol Times)
Secretary of State Katie Hobbs in her office. Hobbs said problems with the state’s campaign-finance websites will be fixed by the 2020 election. (Photo by Andrew Nicla/Arizona Capitol Times)

For a long time, because of issues with transferring what’s reported, it’s been garbage in, garbage out. Those issues have been chipped away through years and hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“When you had the old campaign-finance system and See The Money was put in place, they didn’t necessarily talk to each other the right way,” Hobbs said.

She said there hasn’t been any statutory changes in what or how this information is reported, rather the way that the information is transferred and presented has.

What remains is an accessibility issue: people completely new to the system often don’t know what they’re looking at or what to look for. Now the office is working to better display the information and ensure that what’s being displayed is as accurate as they can assure it is.

Once that’s fully fixed and the website is made more accessible, it will be useful, Hobbs said, but it will never live up to the original vision. What was originally proposed was a place for every campaign finance report in the entire state, including local jurisdictions.

However, that dream never materialized because Hobbs nor her staff can compel other jurisdictions to participate and, Hobbs said, there’s no political will in the Legislature to do that. Even if there was interest, the system isn’t equipped to deliver.

If that did happen, Hobbs and others feared people would be charged to use that system. Change has been slow and hard to accomplish, Hobbs said, because her administration was a victim of circumstance – she walked into a project

The website was one of Reagan’s 2014 campaign promises: making it easier for people to see where candidates get their campaign money. Over $1 million has been spent to build the site and make it accessible for most people, but it still has issues.

Five years later, the website is still being tweaked.

Under Reagan, the office spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the project, hiring a contractor that didn’t finish and forcing it in-house in 2016. Reagan, her staff and the contractors she employed hailed the website as a success with minor issues.

Former Secretary of State Michele Reagan at her inauguration in 2015. Reagan promised during her 2014 campaign to make it easier for people to see where candidates get their campaign money. Over $1 million has been spent to build a campaign-finance website and make it accessible for most people, but it doesn’t work. (File Photo/Arizona Capitol Times)
Former Secretary of State Michele Reagan at her inauguration in 2015. Reagan promised during her 2014 campaign to make it easier for people to see where candidates get their campaign money. Over $1 million has been spent to build a campaign-finance website and make it accessible for most people, but it doesn’t work. (File Photo/Arizona Capitol Times)

Together, Reagan and Hobbs have spent more than $1 million on the project.

One of the original developers for See The Money, Al Kawazi, said the larger problem has always been how the data is received. Kawazi said he and the other developers did their job.

“The problem is that the data is only as good as the data that’s coming in,” Kawazi said. “So if somebody puts in data that is wrong or they misallocated funds where they should have gone to as an expense, they put it as income, or whatever the reason may be – you can easily see that in the visualizations.”

Another problem, Kawazi said, was categorizing names and grouping contributions from the same person or not for people with similar names. Sometimes, when filing, mistakes can happen; someone misspells their name, changes a number in their address or even puts down their second home and not their primary address. Whatever the case, Kawazi said inconsistencies in data make it more difficult for developers or their algorithms to reasonably group entries from people or organizations and to assume they are identical.

Kawazi and company were experimenting with machine learning, a form of artificial intelligence, and beginning to aggregate people by jobs, addresses and other information they gave. Compiling that accurately became hard at times because some people clearly, intentionally misreported their name or address consistently, knowing the information would be public and fearing people would send them letters or show up at their house, Kawazi said.

Kawazi said that flaws aside, the state has one of the most organized systems for presenting this data, but the problem remains that the data is dirty.

When Reagan first was elected, she had hoped to complete the website during or before June 2016, but she ended up being late, over budget and needed more money.

To help foot the $462,000 bill to develop a new campaign finance website to replace the other project that failed to launch, Reagan asked the Citizen’s Clean Election Commission to pay $200,000, and $50,000 each year for maintenance.

Director of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission Tom Collins said he’s not sure where exactly that money spent was put toward, if it was worth it and he’s not confident that it’s “up to snuff.” Collins often hears complaints from members of the public about the site and about how information can be misreported often enough to warrant double checking the original documents, confusion over the definition of a particular vendor, not distinguishing between different types of transactions and just a general lack of explanation for what exactly people are looking at.

At the end of the day, it’s not reliable, Collins said, adding that it doesn’t achieve the goals that the commission considered when it decided to make the service agreement. Collins understands that website development is hard work and said he isn’t criticizing Hobbs personally, rather he wants to make sure this project lives up to its full potential.

“If See The Money does not provide voters information they can use, grab on-the-go and use, without having to double check the campaign finance database, what did our $200,000 buy in the first place?” Collins said.

Candidates head to court to defend petition challenges

Shawnna Bolick
Shawnna Bolick

Freshman lawmaker Shawnna Bolick has landed in court for using a P.O. box instead of her address on nominating petitions for her return bid to the state House. 

Bolick, a Phoenix Republican who represents Legislative District 20, is one of 25 candidates for state, legislative and federal offices who will be in court in the coming days to defend challenges to their petitions. Petitions were due April 20 and legal challenges to them are a routine part of the election process. 

Election attorney Kory Langhofer, who is defending Bolick from the claim she isn’t qualified to run because of the use of the P.O. box rather than her address, said it’s a weak argument, and he would know because he used it against Dan Saban, a candidate for Maricopa County sheriff in 2016, and lost. 

“We were on the other side then and the Arizona Supreme Court said [the P.O. box] is in the district so it’s fine,” Langhofer said. 

Bolick filled out her residential address as a P.O. box that’s in her district instead of her actual address, presumably since it’s protected because she’s married to Clint Bolick, an Arizona Supreme Court justice. 

The legal challenge, which is scheduled for an April 29 hearing, separately argues that 408 signatures are invalid because “they contain an improper or false calculator certification,” again relying on Bolick using her P.O. box as her residential address, and another 109 signatures are invalid for those signers not being in Bolick’s district. Republicans in that district need at least 455 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. 

In Saban’s case, the court said he didn’t strictly comply with the law, but he was close enough because his petition sheets didn’t cause any confusion or mislead any of the voters who signed them. . 

“I would bet heavily on Shawnna,” Langhofer said.

Bolick is joined by other incumbents who also must fend off  legal challenges. 

One is Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, a conservative Republican who’s routinely targeted as a beatable candidate. She faces a tough primary challenge against perennial candidate Wendy Rogers, and then that winner will take on Democrat Felicia French in the November election. 

Sylvia Allen
Sylvia Allen

In his challenge to Allen’s candidacy, lawyer and former state Elections Director Eric Spencer, warned that signatures the senator collected herself reveal a “potentially troubling pattern of fraud” that he wants to ask her about in court. 

The challenge states that Allen claims to have collected signatures around her vast northern Arizona district – in Flagstaff, Sedona, Cottonwood, Holbrook, Snowflake and Taylor – “on days when her public calendar proves that she was in the Phoenix metropolitan area attending to her official duties.” 

“These examples are potentially indicative of more widespread misconduct in Allen’s candidacy, which Plaintiff expects to further develop through Allen’s testimony at trial regarding whether she personally circulated all petition sheets bearing her name as circulator,” Spencer wrote. 

He added that besides the 42 signatures he found on six sheets she claimed to have circulated, “Allen may have fraudulently certified other petition sheets as well.” 

Allen filed 956 signatures for the office, which requires 484 minimum valid signatures. 

Spencer has a steep hill ahead of him, as he attempts to invalidate “at least” 528 signatures on a variety of grounds, including that circulators didn’t complete the fields on the back and that the signers aren’t registered to vote or don’t live in the district. 

He also alleges that one sheet is invalid because a felon who hasn’t had their rights restored circulated it. 

Allen told Yellow Sheet Report, a sister publication of the Arizona Capitol Times, she’s more irritated than concerned by the lawsuit, as she’s confident her signatures will stand. Volunteers who circulated her petition sheets signed them correctly, and she reviewed them personally, she said. 

“I’m irritated of course because it’s going to take time and money to challenge it,” Allen said. 

The plaintiff, William Chachkes, is a supporter of Rogers, she said, and Spencer is just throwing whatever arguments he can find. 

“It’s just part of the politics,” she said.

Corporation Commission

Five of the six Republicans running for Arizona Corporation Commission are facing challenges to their petitions, after a former commission staffer filed three challenges and a former superintendent of public instruction candidate, Bob Branch, filed three more. Commissioner Lea Marquez Peterson is the only safe candidate. 

Branch, a staunch conservative, first challenged Commissioner Boyd Dunn’s signatures on April 17 and has since filed challenges against Kim Owens and Sen. David Farnsworth, who terms out of the Legislature this year.

Branch told Yellow Sheet Report he would be bummed out if only Marquez Peterson qualifies on the GOP side for the three open seats, but the rules are the rules – and lawmakers should have changed those rules. 

“With the COVID virus, and the last month of not being able to collect signatures, I don’t think it’s just on [the candidates]. I think it’s on our state for not extending [the deadline],” Branch said. “That was shortsighted and done to protect people in office… and that’s not on me.”

Branch is alleging that 1,343 of Owens’ 7,360 signatures are invalid and 1,335 of Farnsworth’s 7,269 signatures are not valid. Republicans running for the commission need at least 6,663 valid signatures. 

Eric Gorsegner, a former commission policy analyst and chief of staff to former Phoenix Mayor Skip Rimsza, also filed a challenge to Dunn’s signatures arguing 1,103 of the 7,361 signatures he collected are invalid. 

Farnsworth, who had the fewest signatures of any commission candidate, is also facing a challenge from Gorsenger, who alleged that 2,156 of Farnsworth’s 7,296 signatures are invalid.

And Nick Myers faces a challenge from Gorsenger as well, who argues 2,191 of Myers’ 7,744 signatures are invalid. 

Before Gorsenger filed that additional challenge against Dunn, Dunn said he finds it suspicious that a Republican chose to challenge his signatures and not the signatures of candidates who have a “similar and even lower signature count.” 

Arizona Corporation Commissioner Boyd Dunn speaks with Arizona Power Supply chairman Don Brandt, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Arizona Corporation Commissioner Boyd Dunn. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Dunn said that after reviewing the first challenge, he isn’t worried. He said it “amazes” him that the challenge picked petition sheets which include former Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup, Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel (who is apparently registered under her married name Allister DeNitto) and Russell McCloud, a supervisor in Yuma County who is by law also listed as a defendant. 

“Half of my signatures came from the online E-Qual system with the Secretary of State,” Dunn said. “These are 100 percent verified.” 

He said he welcomes that “frivolous” lawsuit from attorney Tim La Sota. 

“It is a compliment that people like Tim are so afraid of my record of good governance and constituent services that he feels the only way to beat me is by means of a frivolous lawsuit,” he said. 

Gorsegner is also a financial backer of two of the Democrats running for the commission this year. He contributed $100 to Bill Mundell’s campaign and another $20 to Shea Stanfield. Gorsegner also contributed to Mundell’s 2016 commission race. None of the three Democratic candidates face challenges. 

The fifth commission candidate facing a challenge is Eric Sloan. 

Mary Halford, a Maricopa County voter, challenged his candidacy with the help of Democratic attorney Roy Herrera, arguing about 2,200 of his 8,017 signatures are invalid.

Most of the court hearings will be held the week of April 27, and candidates will either be removed from the ballot or continue campaigning for the primary on August 4. 

Yellow Sheet Report editor Hank Stephenson contributed to this story.

Candidates submit signatures, set primary election ballots

Man putting a ballot into a voting box - USA

The 2020 primary ballot is set and at least 15 current lawmakers will breeze to re-election with no primary or general election challenger, but some candidates could be in rough waters for not providing a comfortable cushion in case their signatures are challenged.

The Arizona primary is set for August 4.

Political consultants recommend getting at least double the number of required signatures on a candidate petition, to maintain a buffer in the event of a challenge. That means legislative candidates should have aimed for 600 to 1,200 signatures depending on their party and district.

Most who have filed have a sizable cushion, despite the coronavirus putting a damper on signature collection. However, some running in contested primaries, including Sen. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, Sen. Lela Alston, D-Phoenix, and Legislative District 6 Republican Senate candidate Wendy Rogers, went far beyond what was expected.

Carter and her primary challenger Rep. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, each needed a minimum of 558 valid signatures in Legislative District 15; Carter gathered 2,008 to Barto’s 930.

Rogers has 2,902 signatures to Sen. Sylvia Allen’s 885; Republicans in LD6 need to gather only 484.

Alston collected more than triple the number of needed signatures (1,538) in Legislative District 24, and nearly triple the signatures of her primary opponent, Air Force veteran Ryan Starzyk (624).

Collecting far more than the necessary number of signatures can signal to opponents that you have a good network of volunteers or a lot of money to pay signature gatherers, consultant Barrett Marson said.

“Candidates love to run up the score, if you will, on signatures,” he said. “If you need 300 and you get 2,000, it doesn’t mean anything. But it does show that you have a good organization or you have lots of spare change.”

But this year, he said just having 20% above the minimum means a lot.

For the most part, candidates should focus on campaigning rather than gathering extra signatures, consultant Chris Baker said.

“There’s an argument to be made that if you put a lot of effort toward collecting online signatures, there are emails that come with,” he said, noting that emails can be put to use later in a campaign, but paper petitions don’t mean much.

All incumbent candidates were able to get their minimum in before the April 6 deadline, providing no surprising absences. But one incumbent, Rep. Isela Blanc, D-Tempe, had intended to challenge Sen. Juan Mendez for his seat in the Democratic primary in Legislative District 26, but she pulled out of that race right before the deadline.

Blanc said she definitely had the necessary signatures to run, but she decided to step back from political life for the time being.

Other candidates who eked by the minimum requirement include the plethora of hopefuls running in the completely vacant Legislative District 1 House race.

Neither incumbent Rep. Noel Campbell, R-Prescott, nor Rep. Steve Pierce, R-Prescott is seeking re-election, but six Republicans have cleared the signature hurdle and filed to run.

Four incumbents, Sen. Tony Navarrete, D-Phoenix, Rep. Kelly Townsend, R- Mesa (who is running for Senate), and Reps. Diego Rodriguez, D-Phoenix, and Domingo DeGrazia, D-Tucson, were also toward the bottom of percentage over minimum.

The lowest percentage goes to Sen. David Farnsworth, R-Mesa, who is seeking one of three seats on the Arizona Corporation Commission in a tough primary with five other Republicans, including two incumbents.

Farnsworth is up against two incumbents in Lea Marquez Peterson and Boyd Dunn, as well as Kim Owens, Eric Sloan and Nick Myers. Marquez Peterson leads them all with 9,161 signatures. Only three will advance to the general election.

On the Democratic side, there are only three candidates, which means they won’t have to worry about the primary. Former Commissioner Bill Mundell led all candidates with 12,000 signatures, followed by Tolleson Mayor Anna Tovar with 8,388, and newcomer Shea Stanfield, who filed 8,188 signatures with 6,325 as the minimum.

The total number of signatures might not matter for a handful of current lawmakers with no primary or general challenger, barring a successful legal challenge or write-in campaign.

In the Senate: Karen Fann, R-Prescott, Sally Ann Gonzales, D-Tucson, Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, Jamesita Peshlakai, D-Window Rock, Victoria Steele, D-Tucson, Sine Kerr, R-Buckeye, Lupe Contreras, D-Phoenix, Navarrete and Townsend are all guaranteed seats. Fann is the current Senate president.

On the House side, Leo Biasucci, R-Lake Havasu City, Regina Cobb, R-Kingman, Jennifer Longdon, D-Phoenix, Amish Shah, D-Phoenix, Robert Meza, D-Phoenix and Raquel Teran, D-Phoenix, are unchallenged in their re-election bids. In many other House races, incumbents face only one challenger, meaning one incumbent is assured victory, though the pick-two style elections make it impossible to say which.

Chaos predicted for 3 proposals that weaken voters’ power


Three legislative proposals that are each designed to independently scale back the lawmaking powers of voters could, in tandem, upend Arizona’s ballot initiative and referral system.

Several factors are standing in the way of these measures stacking on one another, but if voters approve them all, they could lead to incredibly lengthy ballots for years to come, drive up the cost of elections, and legislators would be able to make changes to voter-approved laws with only a simple majority.

Opponents of the two measures in the House and one in the Senate invoke the term “voter suppression” in discussing them, and the few supporters who have testified publicly say they want to keep voters in check and set a single-subject standard for the ballot that the Legislature faces.

At issue is the 1998 Voter Protection Act, designed to prevent lawmakers and the governor from amending or repealing voter-approved laws.

Thomas Basile, an Arizona lawyer who worked as Mitt Romney’s attorney for his 2012 presidential campaign, said he did not see any problem with what the referrals would accomplish since initiatives under the Voter Protection Act have reached the status of “super law” and made voter-approved laws “practically immune from any modifications.”

He said the two proposals in the House “would correct this pretty striking asymmetry and restore the equilibrium established by the original state Constitution.”

More voter decision making

The House has several measures that would not only remove some power of the voters, but could potentially work in unison to cause voters more harm.

Rusty Bowers
Rusty Bowers

House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, wants to ask voters to put every ballot proposition approved after 2020 on the ballot again for reauthorization every 10 years. Additionally, every approved proposition from 1994 to 2018 would go through a reauthorization process 30 years after enactment. So the three approved laws in 1994 would be referred back to the ballot starting in 2024 and every 10 years thereafter. The three successful propositions from 1994 are exempting livestock from property taxes, increasing the tobacco tax and hunting on public lands with traps and poison. There have been 65 propositions approved between 1994 and 2018.

Since the Voter Protection Act was approved in 1998, that law would also be back on the ballot in 2028 under HCR2046.

“HCR2046 would give each generation of voters an opportunity to decide whether laws enacted years or decades ago still make sense under contemporary circumstances,” Basile said.

The way the language is written, it doesn’t explicitly state what would happen if voters opt to vote “no” on an effort like that, but it is assumed the law would be wiped off the books, said Joel Edman, director of Arizona Advocacy Network. .

Bowers’ proposal also has the unintended consequence of asking voters to reauthorize laws that are already outdated, Edman said, citing the 2006 proposition setting Arizona’s minimum wage at $6.75 per hour, which would go to the voters again in 2036 as an example. If reauthorized, Arizona’s minimum wage would then seemingly be set at $6.75 again – even after voters approved to raise it to $12 in 2016, Edman said.

Roopali Desai, a Democratic elections lawyer, said Bowers’ attempt is “unnecessary” at a minimum.

“It is yet another ploy to undermine the constitutional right that voters have to legislate co-equally with the legislative branch,” Desai said. “We don’t renew or look at bills that the Legislature passes every 10 years and say it was not a good idea.”

Outside of it “targeting citizen initiatives” as Desai says, she also said there’s a worry of how much this could end up costing voters in the long run, which is unfair and punitive to voters.

“There are costs associated with publicity pamphlets, printing ballots, running campaigns. It seems unnecessary that we would put more cost to the voters for something that they’ve already passed.”

Roopali Desai
Roopali Desai

Desai said just to get even one initiative on the ballot would cost millions of dollars to obtain the necessary signatures and that is not counting the money spent on the campaigns.

Voters saw in 2016 an effort to legalize recreational marijuana through an initiative in which more than $6 million went into both the yes and no campaigns and that effort failed on the ballot. If HCR2046 is approved, every 10 years millions of dollars would potentially be spent on those campaigns just to have voters keep approving laws that exist already.

But it’s not just the cost, it’s also the length of the ballot, which Desai said could lead to “voter disengagement.”

The more questions on the ballot leads everyday voters to have to understand more topics they may not completely understand for various reasons, Desai said. For average Arizonans, they don’t live and breathe this, she said.

“I would argue that’s the point of the Bowers bill,” Desai said. “That’s just another tactic for voter suppression, which is that if you just throw so much money that they can’t digest it, or understand it or sort through it, then they’ll vote no, or they’ll not vote at all.”

Basile said Bowers’ proposal would actually entail more voter decision making.

Bowers did not return a call for comment.

One Subject

The other effort out of the House is the only referendum targeting the initiative process to make it out of its chamber of origin. Rep. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, introduced HCR2032, which when applied with Bowers’ reauthorization measure, could make things even more complicated.

Kern wants the voters to approve an effort that would require all ballot propositions be limited to a single subject, saying that is how the Legislature works.

Basile said the proposal just applies to initiatives the same single-subject rule that has always governed ordinary legislation and constitutional amendments.

“It would allow voters to evaluate discrete proposals on their own merits, rather than force them to accept or reject a hodgepodge of unrelated provisions on a take-it-or-leave-it basis,” Basile said.

If Kern’s and Bowers’ proposals were to pass, they could cause confusion over what happens to already approved laws with two subjects that need to be reauthorized. For example, Proposition 206, the 2016 minimum wage increase that also addressed sick leave, could not qualify for reauthorization if HCR2046 is also approved.

In HCR2046, when voters would have to reauthorize Proposition 206, it might be thrown off the ballot for not complying with HCR2032. In fact, one portion of the Arizona Constitution requires all acts to contain just one subject.

However, during the legal battle over Proposition 206, the Arizona Supreme Court declared that the rule only applied to acts of the Legislature, not initiatives.

Braun and Desai said it’s not so simple that these efforts could be applied together anyway.

Since neither has the other mentioned in its language – either directly or indirectly – Legislative Council Executive Director Mike Braun said there would have to be further legislative implementation for that to work.

So since Kern doesn’t have anything in the language of HCR2032 that would be retroactive or a direct correlation to “initiatives that need to be reauthorized” it could not apply to HCR2046, Braun said.

Likewise, Desai said if there is an attempt to remove a proposition from a renewal ballot because it violates the single-subject law there would likely be litigation.

Basile agreed that if both are implemented, it could lead to litigation.

“Some thorny drafting questions (and maybe litigation) might arise in particular instances, but I don’t think implementation would be all that difficult in most cases,” he said.

Simple Majority

Republican Sen. Vince Leach’s SCR1020 would ask voters to amend the Voter Protection Act, so only a simple majority vote would be needed to amend some voter-approved laws rather than three-fourths in both chambers as now required, and those changes would no longer have to “further the intent” of the original voter-approved law.

Leach’s proposal passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 13 without any testimony except from the sponsor himself, who referred to the 2010 Arizona Medical Marijuana Act and the 2016 minimum wage increase, both voter-approved measures, as prime examples fueling his effort. The measure subsequently passed through the Senate Committee of the Whole on February 24 on a voice vote, but has yet to receive a full vote from the Senate.

The change would only apply to initiatives and referendums relating to “health and public safety,” but Leach said that interpretation is broad.

Braun said the term is undefined, but has similarities to a section of the Arizona Constitution which allows lawmakers to put an emergency clause on legislation if it is necessary for the immediate “public peace, health, or safety” of the population. That is also undefined, but Braun said case law suggests it’s for the Legislature to decide when something is needed for those reasons and can effectively apply to nearly anything the Legislature wants, as long as there’s a two-thirds approval.

“But I don’t know what a court would say about this new provision,” he said.

The referral would allow voter-approved initiatives a one-year window of being untouchable. However, any initiative that has been on the books for more than a year is fair game – so long as lawmakers can successfully argue the voter-approved law relates to public health and safety.

Coalition of voters takes Ducey to court over filling U.S. Senate seat

Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Gov. Doug Ducey (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

The former leader of Arizona’s Libertarian Party filed a lawsuit against Gov. Doug Ducey Wednesday, arguing he must immediately hold a special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by John McCain.

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for Arizona, alleges that Arizona laws dictating how to handle a vacancy in the U.S. Senate violate the 17th amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and deprive Arizona citizens of their 14th Amendment and First Amendment rights.

Michael Kielsky, an attorney at Udall Shumway, former chairman of the Arizona Libertarian Party and frequent candidate for public office, brought the suit on behalf of a coalition of five Libertarian, independent, Republican and Democratic voters.

Daniel Scarpinato, Ducey’s chief of staff, dismissed the suit as “another frivolous lawsuit.”

But Kielsky said that leaving the seat with an appointee until 2020 is unreasonable, and a judge will decide if the suit is frivolous.

“As with a lot of constitutional provisions, we have to apply a reasonable standard… (An election in) March would be reasonable, May would be OK, but two years is unreasonable,” he said.

He noted that a lawsuit challenging the appointment to the U.S. Senate seat in Illinois that former President Obama vacated in 2009 was successful on similar grounds.

Arizona law states that if a vacancy occurs in the U.S. Senate, the governor shall appoint a person to fill the vacancy, and that person shall serve until the next general election. But if the vacancy occurs less than 150 days before the next primary election – as happened with McCain – the appointee “shall serve until the vacancy is filled at the second regular general election held after the vacancy occurs,” meaning the 2020 election.

The suit argues that law violates the 17th Amendment, which granted voters direct elections of U.S. Senators. That amendment states that in the event of a Senate vacancy, the state governor shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies, “Provided, that the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.”

But the suit argues that the state Legislature has no authority to mandate that a temporary appointee serve in lieu of a Senator directly elected by the people, “beyond any period necessary to hold an orderly election.”

The suit argues that by keeping in office a “temporary” appointee far beyond the period within which an orderly election could be held, Ducey has deprived plaintiffs and other citizens of their right to vote under the 17th Amendment and to determine who shall represent the people in the Senate.

As a result of the state law, “citizens of Arizona will be deprived of elected representation in the Senate for over twenty eight months, and will suffer irreparable injury from such a lengthy loss of elected representation in the United States Senate,” the suit argues.

While some states dictate that U.S. Senate vacancies must be filled by special election, most states employ similar delays in filling a vacancy that occurs shortly before a scheduled election, though most use shorter timelines than Arizona, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures.

In Virginia, if the vacancy occurs fewer than 120 days before the primary election, the appointee serves until the following election cycle, according to the NCSL. In New Jersey, if a vacancy occurs more than 30 days before the next primary election, it’s filled that year, otherwise the appointee serves until the next election cycle.

County supervisors defy Senate subpoenas

Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates answers questions Monday about the board's decision not to respond to the latest Senate subpoena. With him is Chairman Jack Sellers (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)
Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates answers questions Monday about the board’s decision not to respond to the latest Senate subpoena. With him is Chairman Jack Sellers (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

Maricopa County won’t surrender the latest batch of documents and equipment the Senate demands.

At least, not most of what was subpoenaed.

County officials did not show up at the Senate at 1 p.m. on Monday as commanded by President Karen Fann with the items in tow. In fact, they didn’t show up at all.

Instead, board Chairman Jack Sellers sent a letter to Fann and the other senators blasting the “audit” — the quotes are as he stated it — and telling them to get on with it.

“The board has real work to do and little time to entertain this adventure in never-never land,” he wrote, saying that the 2020 election was run as required by state and federal law.

“There was no fraud, there wasn’t an injection of ballots from Asia nor was there a satellite that beamed votes into our election equipment,” Sellers said. “It’s time for all elected officials to tell the truth and stop encouraging conspiracies.”

And Sellers told the senators to release whatever report they’re going to produce “and be prepared to defend any accusations of misdeeds in court.”

At a separate press conference explaining the board’s decision, Sellers took a slap at the Senate — and Cyber Ninjas, the firm that Fann hired.

“A lot of the questions that have been raised in the current subpoena are because the unqualified, inexperienced people they hired to do this audit don’t know what they’re looking at,” he said. “So they keep asking us to verify things or explain things that if they knew what they were doing they would already know the answers.”

Senate President Karen Fann (Photo by Kyra Haas/Arizona Capitol Times)
Senate President Karen Fann (Photo by Kyra Haas/Arizona Capitol Times)

The Senate had no better luck with a separate subpoena — and that 1 p.m. Monday deadline — for Dominion Voting Systems to produce various passwords, tokens and other ways to get into the programming of the equipment it leased to the county for the election.

Attorney Eric Spencer, in a written response to the Senate, said the demand violates his client’s constitutional rights against unreasonable search and seizure. And he said while the Senate has the power to conduct investigations, there is no “valid legislative purpose” to what Fann wants.

Both denials now shift the burden to the Senate which has to decide whether to pursue the matter.

“We are weighing our options,” said Fann in a prepared statement. But she said that it is the fault of both that the audit of the November election is not yet complete.

“It is unfortunate the noncompliance by the county and Dominion continues to delay the results and breeds distrust,” Fann said. And she accused the county of doing a “slow walk” of a separate public records request for documents about a possible breach of the voter registration database.

Supervisor Bill Gates, a Republican like Sellers, said that a vote by the Republican-controlled Senate to hold board members or officials from Dominion in contempt and potentially jail them is unlikely.

“We all know from public statements now that they have even fewer than 15 senators who are in support of this operation,” he said, noting the earlier objection from Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Glendale and the more recent conclusion by Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, that “the audit has been botched.” Anyway, Gates said, the Senate would have to be in session to even consider a contempt resolution.

Doug Logan, CEO of Cyber Ninjas, answers questions Tuesday at a hearing of sorts to discuss the issues with the current Senate-ordered audit of Maricopa County election returns.
Doug Logan, CEO of Cyber Ninjas, answers questions May 18, 2021, at a hearing of sorts to discuss the issues with the current Senate-ordered audit of Maricopa County election returns.

But it does not preclude Fann from seeking a court order as she did after the supervisors balked at earlier subpoenas.

In that case, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Timothy Thomasson said the lawmakers have a “valid legislative purpose” in seeking the 2.1 million ballots and the election equipment.

He pointed out that the Arizona Constitution gives legislators the power to enact “laws to secure the purity of elections and guard against abuses of the elective franchise.” And Thomasson accepted the Senate’s explanation that it needed the ballots and equipment to determine if changes are needed in state election laws.

County officials ended up complying at that time. In fact, the ballots and equipment that were produced now have all been returned to the county.

But it now appears the supervisors are ready for a new fight over what more the Senate and Cyber Ninjas insist they need.

In a separate letter to Fann, County Attorney Allister Adel ticked off objections she has to what the Senate requested.

For example, she said there is no need for the actual envelopes in which early ballots were mailed since the county provided images. Anyway, Adel said, the Senate has provided no assurance it could actually protect those items.

But beyond that, the county attorney said the latest subpoena is “an abuse of process or designed merely to harass.”

Still, Adel said the county might provide some information — and on its own schedule.

For example, she said that the county might provide details about a breach of a voter registration web site last year operated by the County Recorder’s Office even though she said it was never connected to election tabulation equipment and is irrelevant to the audit. But Adel said that county officials are busy and they will respond to a parallel public records request for the same information when they have the time.

But the supervisors called the whole investigation little more than “political theater.”

“They’re not acting seriously,” said Gates, saying that the Senate is not doing anything to make voters confident about the electoral system.

“They’re focused on tearing it down, he continued. “They’re focused on raising all sorts of doubts that are going to do nothing but erode at our democracy.”

And then there’s the timing of this, the third subpoena issued by the Senate in its self-proclaimed inquiry into whether the results of the 2020 election — the one that saw Joe Biden outpoll Donald Trump in both the county and the state — were accurate.

All that goes to Gates’ conclusion that this is a political versus a legal issue.

Exhibit No. 1 is the demand in that third subpoena for the county’s routers, essentially equipment that directs computer traffic between the county’s own computers as well as the internet.

Auditors have claimed, without any proof, that election computers were somehow hacked and the results altered. And they have not been convinced by two separate investigations conducted for the county which found the election system is air-gapped and was never connected to the internet.

Yet he said the conspiracy theories remain.

More to the point, Gates said, is the timing of this new subpoena and the demand for those routers.

“They waited for former President Trump to come to town, talk about routers 10 times, and then issue a third subpoena,” he said. “This isn’t serious.”

And Gates said the people behind the audit are “more interested in scoring political points and driving the conspiracy theories held by many of the members of the state Senate.”

Editor’s note: This story has been revised to include comment from Senate President Karen Fann. 

Court considers Senate records dispute

Arizona Senate Republicans hold a hearing review of the 2020 presidential election results in Maricopa County at the Arizona Capitol Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

An attorney for the Senate warned the Court of Appeals Wednesday that if the judges force public disclosure of records related to the audit of the 2020 election it will undermine the ability of lawmakers to do their jobs. 

Kory Langhofer told the court it should void a ruling by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Michael Kemp who rejected broad claims that “legislative privilege” shields communications between and among Republican lawmakers and others involved in what was billed as a “forensic audit” of the election results. 

Langhofer argued that it would open up to public scrutiny the discussions that lawmakers had about the audit. And that, he said, would undermine what he said is a constitutional recognition that legislators are entitled to have private conversations and communications because that is part of their job. 

But attorney Keith Beauchamp said the flaw in Langhofer’s argument is that the records he is seeking on behalf of American Oversight — the ones that the Senate has refused to disclose — have nothing to do with the role of legislators in crafting laws. 

He said the record shows that Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, said she ordered the audit and contracted with Cyber Ninjas not to consider proposed new laws. 

Instead, Beauchamp said, Fann said she was responding to concerns of Arizona residents about the accuracy of the tally where Democrat Joe Biden outpolled incumbent Donald Trump in Maricopa County. That margin of victory in the state’s largest county was enough to give the state’s popular vote — and its 11 electors — to Biden. 

More to the point, Beauchamp said, is that the audit was not part of some investigation launched by lawmakers to review the adequacy of state election laws or craft new ones. 

Even after it was produced, Fann turned it over to Attorney General Mark Brnovich to see if any existing laws had been broken. And it was only at that point, Beauchamp said — after the audit was produced and after all of the communications sought by American Oversight — that there was a discussion of whether existing statutes need to be amended. 

Beauchamp told the judges there is a role for legislative privilege. For example, he said if Fann now wants to communicate with colleagues about changes to state law based on audit findings, that would be protected. 

But what’s at issue here, he said, are the communications that Fann and others had with Cyber Ninjas and others both in deciding to conduct the audit and then on how the review was being done. None of that, Beauchamp said, is related to the business of legislators, which is crafting laws. 

“They can’t make a showing that there was any deliberative or communicative process underway, much less of any impairment of that process,” he said. 

Hanging in the balance are perhaps tens of thousands of emails, texts and other documents possessed not only by the Senate itself but also those in the possession of Cyber Ninjas, the private firm Fann retained to conduct the review. 

In his earlier ruling, Kemp acknowledged that lawmakers are entitled to certain constitutional protections. He said that is part of ensuring that the “deliberative and communicative process” about proposed laws or other matters within the jurisdiction of lawmakers is not impaired by public disclosure of their deliberations. 

The problem, said Kemp, is the Senate wants to extend that to all the communications involving Fann, Sen. Warren Petersen who chairs the Judiciary Committee, the liaisons Fann chose to interact with Cyber Ninjas and even communications with that company and its own sub vendors. And none of that, he said was “an integral part of deliberations or communications regarding proposed legislation.” 

“Under such an expansive view there are few activities in which a legislator engages that could not  be somehow related to the legislative process,” the judge said. “And the privilege does not extend to all things in any way related to the legislative process.” 

Langhofer told the appellate court Wednesday that Kemp was off base in saying that only communications related directly to proposed legislation are exempt from the state’s public records law. The key, he said, is whether public disclosure would impair the ability of the legislature to do its job. That, Langhofer said, includes “the chilling effect that would have on the body.” 

And he told the judges that upholding what Kemp ruled and accepting his narrow definition of what lawmakers can keep secret would not be fair. 

“That dismissive approach to privilege is not consistent with the way the judiciary has treated its own privilege or executive privilege,” he said. “And these exist for a reason: to encourage candor and, frankly, improved results in what is supposed to be a deliberative body.” 

Beauchamp, for his part, said any effort to shield all those documents the Senate does not want to disclose ignores the fact that they are public records. 

“There’s no dispute about it,” he said. “There’s a strong public policy favoring disclosure of records. 

And when there’s a dispute about whether something can be withheld, Beauchamp said the burden is on the agency holding the records to prove that they are exempt from being made public, not on the person seeking the documents to prove they are public. 

“And here, the public’s right to know under the public records law to know what their legislators are up to would be restricted by a broad application of legislative privilege,” Beauchamp said. 

More to the point, he said if there is a dispute the court has to weigh the interests of the public against claims of privilege. 

Beauchamp told the appellate judges there’s another reason they should reject the Senate’s bid to shield the documents from public view. He said that the Senate, having not only conducted the audit but having a public hearing on the results, waived any claims of privilege. 

Whatever the court rules is likely to affect not just the bid by American Oversight for the records but parallel litigation being pursued by Phoenix Newspapers Inc., the owners of the Arizona Republic. 

In that case, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge John Hannah also rejected Langhofer’s claim that the documents are subject to disclosure. 

“The legislative privilege does not apply to everything a legislator says or does that is somehow related to the legislative process,” Hannah wrote. “The shield extends only as far as necessary to preserve the integrity of the legislative process.” 

And Hannah, like Kemp, said it isn’t up to lawmakers to determine which of their own records are public and which they can withhold. 

“The courts, not current members of the legislature, are responsible for defining the scope of legislative privilege by balancing the public interest in legislator confidentiality against the robust disclosure policy of the public records law,” Hannah wrote. And he said that in close or doubtful situations, “the public records law prioritizes public access over legislative secrecy.” 

The judges gave no indication when they will rule. 


D.C. pundit has it wrong, Arizona Republicans ready for 2020


The Washington, D.C., pundit class has focused its sights on one of the fastest growing counties in the nation with the prediction that its voters could thwart the President’s re-election and jeopardize the chances of Republicans holding onto the U.S. Senate. Stuart Rothenberg penned an “analysis” for Roll Call, claiming that the Republicans’ chances in November look grim because of Maricopa County. Let me be unequivocally clear for the D.C. punditocracy: Arizona is Trump country and our Republican activists will keep it that way.

Maricopa County is one of the fastest growing counties because of opportunity. Despite the setback caused by the Coronavirus crisis that is impacting the entire country’s economy, the long-term outlook for both Arizona and Maricopa County is bright. We have a pro-business and pro-job growth environment. We are also considered to have among the strongest pro-life and Second Amendment laws in the nation. Going back to Barry Goldwater, Arizonans are known for passionately supporting individual liberties and limited government. This culture of freedom, combined with the historic accomplishments of President Trump and Republican leadership in our state, makes Arizona attractive to virtually all Americans.

Kelli Ward (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
Kelli Ward (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

In his piece, Rothenberg attempts to juxtapose data from the 2016 and 2018 electoral cycles to make dire predictions for Republicans in 2020 but neglects to point out on-the-ground realities. In 2016, Donald Trump was still a political newcomer and was mostly known for his luxury hotels, reality TV shows, and candid demeanor. Some Republicans and conservative independents were uncertain of how a President Trump would govern if elected.

Now they know and are convinced. They have seen a president who promotes and delivers on tax cuts; continues to appoint judges who interpret the Constitution instead of trying to rewrite it; firmly supports religious freedom and pro-life policies; cuts red tape that strangles business; and, when facing challenges from China and other foreign threats, always places America first. Most importantly, they see a president who has kept his promises.

This is compared to a Democratic Party that has prioritized endless investigations and an utterly failed attempted impeachment, embraces socialism and government-run healthcare, scolds Americans for their patriotism, divides our nation into the favored “special interest” groups of their intersectional identity politics, and incessantly proposes economy crushing regulations and spending.

With that said, Republicans in Arizona are still expecting a serious challenge. That’s why there are already 60 field staff strategically placed across Arizona working hard at training grassroots volunteers. In the past 10 months, Republicans have held more than 670 MAGA Meet Ups. We have also switched to an online format of campaigning in response to the stay at home order and, since March 13, have successfully organized 325 digital meet ups with Arizonans. In addition, this week, we passed the milestone of 1 million phone calls made to Arizona voters, fueled by the Republican grassroots activists who signed up and attended one of our nearly 1,000 Trump Victory Leadership Initiative trainings that have been held this cycle to date.

In 2020, unlike 2016, the Trump campaign is bolstered by a Republican Party that is united and has an established grassroots infrastructure. The reality on the ground – and this is something the Beltway class fails to understand – is that we are more ready than we have ever been before.

While Arizona Republicans do not take the challenge presented to us in a Maricopa County and across the state lightly, we certainly take Rothenberg’s predictions with a grain of salt. After all, in April of 2009 he forecasted the Republican’s chances of recapturing the U.S. House in 2010 as “zero” and as late as October of 2016, he placed Donald Trump’s chances of a victory as “non-existent,” ridiculously declaring that Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin were never in play. With that sort of track record, perhaps we should be encouraged by his analysis.

Dr. Kelli Ward is a family physician, two-term Arizona state senator, and the chairwoman of the Republican Party or Arizona. On Twitter: @KelliWardAZ

Faced with hostility, election officials are resigning

In this Nov. 3, 2020, file photo, voters deliver their ballot to a polling station in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

After a decade serving as Yavapai County recorder, Leslie Hoffman announced her resignation this week and said the hostility directed toward her and her office during the past two years played into her decision to leave.

“I’ve been accused of corruption, giving out false numbers,” Hoffman said. “Look at Twitter today, and you will see some of the nasty things that have been said. ‘We’re watching you,’ ‘Do better,’ ‘Lawyer up.’”

Leslie Hoffman

In Arizona and across the country, threats and negativity toward election officials are taking their toll, speeding up retirements or prompting career or job changes.

Yavapai County Elections Director Lynn Constabile, who has been in her position 18 years, is also resigning. Constabile, an independent, said after the 2020 election, she never got the sense of accomplishment and relief that had kept her going after each election cycle.

“It feels like that election is still not over,” she said.

Constabile described a meeting last year where she and Hoffman came to answer questions about the election and were met with hecklers.

“When we get yelled at for how people voted and then accused of being corrupt, that was it for me,” Constabile said. “I was like, ‘No, I have to find something else to do. I’m not going to be able to do this for the rest of my life.’”

Hoffman is a Republican in a solidly Republican county where Donald Trump and Martha McSally won handily in 2020. Still, she said she gets emails through ProtonMail with messages like: “Leslie Hoffman is a fraud owned by the corrupt government.” Constabile said when they point out Trump and McSally won in their county, they’re met with, “Well, they should have won by more.”

While Hoffman said that while most comments they receive are not direct threats, sheriff’s deputies patrol her house periodically anyway. Constabile said she installed security cameras around her home.

Lynn Constabile

Despite all of that, Hoffman said she would have stayed, had she not received a job offer that she couldn’t pass up. She declined to share where she’ll be working next, but said the offer felt like a sign. The new position is not in elections.

“It is really hard, considering the climate, when you get a really good position offered to you,” Hoffman said.

Constabile also has a new job lined up: a remote position at a nonprofit based in California, which she said was “elections adjacent.”

Tammy Patrick, senior adviser to the elections team at the Democracy Fund, testified to the U.S. Senate in May that the election administration field is “on the precipice of a mass exodus of election professionals.” Patrick previously worked as the federal compliance officer for Maricopa County.

She noted in her testimony that 74% of chief local election officials in the U.S. are older than 50, and 25% are older than 65. She said 35% of local officials are eligible to retire before the 2024 election.

“In this moment where everyone is being attacked and their families are being threatened, it has spurred many people who probably would have stayed on through at least one or two more presidential elections to leave the field even before this midterm,” Patrick said in an interview with Arizona Capitol Times. 

In addition to Hoffman, Yuma County Recorder Robyn Stallworth Pouquette, who has held that position since 2008, is taking a new job within the county, resigning effective July 18. At least six of Arizona’s 15 counties will have new elections directors this election cycle, including Pima, Pinal, Coconino, La Paz, Santa Cruz and Yavapai. Pouquette told ABC 15’s Garrett Archer that she was not resigning because of the “2,000 Mules” film or the county’s investigation into election fraud. The Yuma County Recorder’s Office is working with the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office on the investigation, according to the sheriff, who has also said the investigation was not prompted by the film.

Ken Matta, a longtime employee of the Secretary of State’s Office, left the office in May after nearly 20 years, working most recently as the state’s information security director. In a Twitter thread discussing his departure, Matta said that he started carrying a gun when he would go to Veterans Memorial Coliseum to observe the Arizona Senate’s election review last year and said he had the responsibility of triaging threatening messages sent to the office.

“I’ve seen the worst in people as they respond to misinformation spread by a political party – that is still going on today,” he wrote on Twitter.

Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer said he thinks other recorders will retire soon.

“I would imagine there’s a whole number of recorders, I’m thinking at least four, who are probably going to retire this term,” he said.

Patrick, of the Democracy Fund, said there are two main concerns with longtime elections officials leaving: a loss of institutional knowledge and the question of who will fill the vacancies.

In some regards, Arizona is in a better position than many states when it comes to the first issue, because of the state’s Elections Procedures Manual, which provides a step-by-step how-to guide to administering elections. The manual is currently the subject of litigation, as Attorney General Mark Brnovich accused Secretary of State Katie Hobbs of not producing a “legally compliant” manual. While a Yavapai County Superior Court judge threw out the suit, Brnovich has since appealed.

“The procedures manual is so important because in most places in this country, when you become an election official, there’s no manual,” Patrick said. “There’s no guide. There’s nothing that tells you how … you do all of the things that you need to do in order to conduct an election.”

With the vacancies, Patrick said there’s a worry that someone running on a platform of election conspiracy theories could be elected or appointed instead of a nonpartisan election professional.

“We might get people put in these positions or elected into these positions that have a different motivation than the person that they’re replacing,” Patrick said. “That’s very problematic and deeply troubling.”

While many of these positions are elected through party primaries, Patrick said the history of election administration is that those individuals serve all voters.

Hoffman and Constabile said they had confidence in the Yavapai Board of Supervisors to appoint people who are just as neutral as they and their staff are. Hoffman shared the concern about institutional knowledge, noting the community of people with the skill set for the position is small.

“And, right now it’s hard to hire people because they see a job that has anything to do with elections, and they’re not as likely to apply,” she said.

Constabile’s resignation is effective July 1. Hoffman will step down July 22. In the meantime, Hoffman plans to prepare for the August 2 primary.  Hoffman said she’s proud of the work her office has done over the past 10 years and credited her staff, who she said were “wonderful, brilliant people.” Constabile echoed the sentiment.

“I feel really bad for the people we’re leaving behind that have to run the election,” she said. “I basically handpick my department, and they’re the best people in the world. I feel bad that I’m leaving them in the lurch. But I can’t – sometimes you just have to look out for No. 1.”


Fate of most 2020 bills met at Legislature’s deadline


Silent death has come for about two-thirds of the 1,707 bills and resolutions introduced this year in the Legislature.

A February 21 deadline for bills to be heard in their chambers of origin killed most of them, but other bills died primarily because of public outcry

Ideas contained in some of those dead bills could still be revived via amendments later in the legislative process, but their chances of success remain slim.

On February 20, mirror resolutions relating to a constitutional ban of sanctuary cities in the state both saw their demise after protests and controversy drew plenty of local and national attention. The measures were dubbed Gov. Doug Ducey’s “1070,” a reference to the divisive 2010 immigration bill SB1070, which sought to give the state more power to deal with the issue of illegal immigration.

Other notable legislation, including most of the measures in the House to revamp sentencing laws and any attempt to usurp the impending effort to legalize recreational marijuana, also hit a wall.

And Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, put a quick end to any sex education measures in that chamber – controversial or otherwise – after the first day of session.

Sex Ed

Sex education appeared poised to be one of the biggest fights of the session, after conservatives, including Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, and Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, took the position that sex ed is the school-sponsored sexualization of young children.

Sylvia Allen
Sylvia Allen

Before the session started, Allen drafted a bill that would ban schools from teaching sex education before seventh grade. The Snowflake Republican’s measure also appeared to ban any discussion of homosexuality during sex ed courses, bringing national attention to the state.

While Allen dismissed that reading of her bill and pledged to amend it, Senate President Karen Fann killed it quickly. Four of the seven bills Fann declined to assign to committees relate to sex education and depictions of homosexuality in instructional materials.

“I am looking at and reading carefully bills that could be highly controversial and whether they have a chance of passing or not,” Fann said.

House Republicans, including Rep. Leo Biasiucci of Lake Havasu and John Fillmore of Apache Junction, introduced their own bills to ban the teaching of sex ed for young students. Those measures also died without hearings, and the only bill related to sex ed that has continued its journey is an omnibus measure proposed by a governor’s task force that would require instruction on recognizing signs of child abuse.

Criminal Justice Change

Rep. Walter Blackman’s bill to establish and expand earned release credits for people incarcerated for non-violent crimes cleared an important hurdle in the House Judiciary Committee on February 20. and looks likely to pass the full House. But this came in spite of – or perhaps at the expense of – a flurry of other proposed changes to the criminal justice system from both caucuses.

The Snowflake Republican, who is at the spearhead of a movement to remake the criminal system, also proposed legislation to establish an oversight committee and ombudsman position to regulate and audit the oft-troubled Arizona Department of Corrections. That bill never got a hearing. Same with his bill to establish pre-arrest diversion and deflection programs that would allow officers to direct people they contact to social services, though a watered down version from Rep. John Allen, R-Scottsdale, made it through the Judiciary Committee he chairs.

Additionally, his bill that would compel the department to offer free feminine hygiene products and provide extra services to pregnant women didn’t even get a committee assignment. Similar bills from Democrats like Rep. Diego Rodriguez, D-Phoenix, and Rep. Kristen Engel, D-Tucson, were victims of the partisan process, never even making it across the starting line.

Allen is responsible for some of this. In a February Judiciary Committee hearing, he killed a series of bills that would bolster data collection and make other reforms to the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission, an apparent act of revenge against members of the committee he chairs who voted down one of his criminal justice bills.


A pair of House Republicans introduced election bills that stirred outcry at the Capitol this year — one that would bar college students from listing dormitories as an address on their voter registration and another that would allow law enforcement officers to be posted at all polling places throughout the state during primary and general elections.

Bob Thorpe
Bob Thorpe

While these may not be considered the most controversial election bills, limiting how college students can vote is not a new idea, especially from the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff.

Thorpe introduced his measure on two separate occasions. Once when it was assigned to the House Elections Committee, but never received a hearing, and another he wrote as a strike-everything amendment to a different bill of his assigned to the House Technology Committee, which he chairs. He ultimately did not give it a hearing, effectively killing it.

Rep. Jay Lawrence, R-Scottsdale, on the other hand, wanted police officers at every polling station in the state because of potential violence he thought could erupt due to the growing political divide in the country. But without a plan to fund this option, among other potential issues, the bill was never assigned to a committee.


Despite the likely-to-pass recreational marijuana initiative coming to the ballot this November, Democratic lawmakers still made attempts of their own to legalize the product without seeking voter approval.

Two attempts were virtually marked dead on arrival when Bowers and Fann confirmed that they wouldn’t hear any legislation to legalize recreational pot.

Isela Blanc
Isela Blanc

Democratic Reps. Isela Blanc, D-Tempe, and Randy Friese, D-Tucson, came out with dueling proposals. Blanc’s was fueled by her criticism of the Smart and Safe Arizona Act, a proposed ballot measure which she has said would create an oligopoly of powerful cannabis business interests at the expense of minority communities ravaged by the war on drugs. The act’s backers took note and made changes, but not enough to stave off her attempt, which never received a committee hearing.

Across the aisle, Sen. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, lost his battle to pass legislation aiming to keep potentially dangerous pesticides of marijuana plants by requiring grow-ops to exclusively use pesticides exempt from federal regulations. But that bill went up in smoke. It needed three-fourths vote to amend the voter-approved law, but was killed when 10 Democrats voted in opposition.

Gender Identity

The Legislature made clear it had no appetite for bills that dealt with gender identity this session. Reps. Rosanna Gabaldon, D-Green Valley, and John Filllmore, R-Apache Junction, introduced opposing bills.

Gabaldon’s HB2075 would have added “nonbinary” as a third option for gender on state-issued driver’s licenses, something more than a dozen states already allow. It would also make that identity available for people who don’t drive.

Rosanna Gabaldon
Rosanna Gabaldon

“These individuals don’t recognize themselves as male or female,” Gabaldon said to Capitol Media Services in January. “I don’t see it as controversial.”

Fillmore’s HB2080 would prohibit any state agency, board, commission or department from issuing any document that lists any sex other that “male” or “female.” It would also require birth certificates to only use those options as well and stop schools from requiring teachers to use a sex or gender pronoun when discussing class material “other than the sex or gender pronoun that corresponds to the sex listed on the student’s birth certificate.”

Neither bill got a hearing.

Title Lending

Sen. David Farnsworth, R-Mesa, arrived at the Capitol before dawn on the first day to pre-file bills, with a stack of measures to regulate the title lending industry in hand. But Farnsworth’s first bills of the session — just like the resolution Sen. Victoria Steele introduced early that same morning to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment — died unheard.

One of Farnsworth’s bills aimed to prohibit title lenders, who offer short-term loans at high interest rates with a car as collateral, from making these loans to people who don’t actually own their car outright.

David Farnsworth
David Farnsworth

Two others were slightly differently worded attempts to cap annual interest rates for title loans at 36%. A 2020 ballot initiative dubbed the Arizona Fair Lending Act would have included both clauses, but supporters conceded that they could not gather the 237,645 valid signatures of registered voters required to make the ballot.

Farnsworth’s legislative measures, meanwhile, never received a hearing in Sen. J.D. Mesnard’s Senate Finance Committee. The Chandler Republican said he prefers that customers have the “freedom” to negotiate their own contracts without government interference.

Farnsworth lamented: “It looks like my whole summer was wasted! I guess I should’ve gone on vacation like everyone else.”

Correction: A previous version of this story erroneously reported that there have been 1842 bills and resolutions introduced in the 2020 legislative session. The actual number is 1,707

Federal judge extends Arizona’s registration deadline to Oct. 23

Voter Proudly Displays Evidence that He Voted on Election Day in the United States.
Voter Proudly Displays Evidence that He Voted on Election Day in the United States.

In an October surprise, a federal judge extended Arizona’s voter registration deadline from Oct. 5 to Oct. 23. 

The news came with mere hours of today’s original deadline for Arizonans to register or update their registration. The court’s ruling gives Arizonans another 18 days to register. 

Progressive groups Mi Familia Vota and Arizona Coalition for Change sued Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, in a last-ditch effort to postpone Arizona’s Oct. 5 voter registration deadline, citing difficulties registering voters during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Steven Logan told Hobb’s office to direct county recorders to accept all voter registrations received by 5 p.m. on Oct. 23.

Logan agreed that COVID-19 and travel restrictions put in place by Gov. Doug Ducey made it difficult for the plaintiffs and others to fulfill their goal of getting more people to register to vote.

Mi Familia Vota and Arizona Coalition for Change claimed they were on track to meet or exceed their goals of registering 30,000 and 25,000 new voters, respectively, before Ducey instituted his stay-at-home order on March 30. The numbers plummeted soon after, they said. Mi Familia Vota reported registering 1,523 new voters in the last week of March but only registered an average of 193 voters per week between March 30 and the middle of August, when Ducey and the Arizona Department of Health Services eased restrictions on businesses, schools and public gatherings. 

Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, called the ruling a “wonderful news” and suggested the state shouldn’t have such an early deadline to begin with. “I’ve proposed Same Day Voter Registration every year since I’ve served in the #AZSenate,” he wrote on Twitter.

Rep. Jennifer Longdon, D-Phoenix, echoed Quezada, and Rep. Raquel Teran, D-Phoenix, tweeted her thanks to the plaintiffs and other “grassroots organizations.” 

Before the extension, Arizonans were already setting records for registration numbers in Maricopa County and statewide.

Numbers from the Secretary of State’s Office shows more than four million Arizonans are registered to vote. Of the four million, 75 percent are on the state’s Permanent Early Voting List. The breakdown shows Republicans make up roughly 35 percent, Democrats 32 percent, and Libertarians, independents and other non party affiliates roughly 33 percent of the vote.

After hitting a record turnout in the August primary elections, many expect to see more than three million ballots cast for the first time this year. 

The bulk of new voters registered between the primary election and the original Oct. 5 deadline. Indeed, more than 210,000 voters have registered since the August 4 primary election. The previous record happened in 2008, when 188,000 Arizonans registered to vote between the primary election and the deadline.

Reporter Julia Shumway contributed to this article.

Pandemic’s role unknown in rise of early voters

In this March 10, 2020, file photo, a King County Election worker collects ballots from a drop box in Seattle for the primary election in Washington State, where elections are all mail. In Arizona, where voters can ask for a mail-in ballot, Democrats and some Republican election officials are calling for an all mail election, at least for this year as the coronavirus causes anxiety for face-to-face contact at the least and sickness and death at the worst. PHOTO BY JOHN FROSCHAUER/ASSOCIATED PRESS
In this March 10, 2020, file photo, a King County Election worker collects ballots from a drop box in Seattle for the primary election in Washington State, where elections are all mail. In Arizona, where voters can ask for a mail-in ballot, Democrats and some Republican election officials are calling for an all mail election, at least for this year as the coronavirus causes anxiety for face-to-face contact at the least and sickness and death at the worst. PHOTO BY JOHN FROSCHAUER/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Election officials say it’s nearly impossible to know if the pandemic has led to an increase in voters who have registered to the state’s Permanent Early Voting List compared to other election years because nobody keeps track of that data.

Some counties update information in real time, but do not save information from previous days, months or years – and that includes the Secretary of State’s Office. As of May 5, there were 2,772,998 early voters, according to the office. But with no information to compare that data to, there’s no statistical way to know how many people have joined since COVID-19 kicked off nor how many people on average sign up in any given election year.

However, in Maricopa County they have daily information readily available on the recorder’s website and seem to at least track the first week of every month. Updated numbers from May 7 show 1,748,152 early voters in the state’s largest county. That’s an increase of 2,668 from one month ago and an increase of 37,111 since February 7. Though some county officials estimate a higher increase can be from preparing for voting in the Democratic Presidential Preference Election on March 17.

David Stevens, the Republican county recorder in Cochise County, said his county saw an increase of about 10% of voters on the list, but those mostly came in February.

“It always increases as you get closer to an election,” Stevens said.

Yavapai County Recorder Leslie Hoffman, also a Republican, said because counties don’t ask voters why they are signing up for the list, there’s no actual way to know if they are signing up due to the pandemic or because an election is approaching.

Hoffman said one thing she has noticed, though, is the interest in joining the list has increased.

“The biggest thing we’ve had are people calling asking ‘How do I get on it?’” she said.

Yavapai County already has 77.6% of its registered voters on the permanent early voting list, which Hoffman says is the largest percentage in the state.

Maricopa County has 73.6% of its voters on the list, and the state has a rate of 70.6%.

A further breakdown from the Secretary of State’s Office shows the highest percentage of PEVL voters are Republicans at 37% compared to Democrats at 35%, Libertarians at 1% and other party or non-party affiliated voters at 27%.

For Pima County, Christopher Roads, the chief deputy recorder, said numbers have increased from 411,110 last December to 420,239 as of May 5.

After Arizona Capitol Times inquired to the Secretary of State’s Office, a spokeswoman said they would likely start keeping track of this data monthly to prepare for future questions about the information. But no reason was provided as to why the data was not being tracked already.

Hoffman also wanted to clarify misreporting regarding the Maricopa County Elections Department, asking the board of supervisors to approve a new plan for early voting in August.

She said it’s being reported that Maricopa County Elections Director Scott Jarrett asked for approval to extend early in-person voting by 14 days, but state law already requires early in-person voting to be open for 27 days before an election.

Hoffman said what Maricopa County was trying to do is open more voting centers for 14 days before the primary on August 4.

Megan Gilbertson, a spokeswoman for the elections department, confirmed what Hoffman said. Jarrett was asking the board of supervisors to open 75 to 100 voting centers to help prevent further coronavirus spread and increase social distancing, much higher than the previous election.

“In 2018, we provided anywhere between five to 35 voting locations prior to Election Day,” Gilbertson said.

Hoffman said in Yavapai County they will have 25 voting centers open for the primary, but that could change if they can’t find enough poll workers. A problem she said extends to the entire country.

Stevens said Cochise will have 17 voting centers open.

Voters who are interested in signing up for the list can still do so and can also request a one-time ballot by mail for the August primaries since it’s more than likely there won’t be a universal ballot by mail option due to Republican elected officials opposing the idea.

Non-party affiliated voters can vote in the primary election by choosing which party’s ballot they want to receive, which is different from presidential preference elections where voters must be registered to that party to vote.

Latest figures released by the Secretary of State’s Office show Democratic voters now outnumber independents by about 28,000, likely due to the Democratic-only election that was held in March.

Republicans rail against all-mail elections, but they vote by mail

In this March 10, 2020, file photo, a King County Election worker collects ballots from a drop box in Seattle for the primary election in Washington State, where elections are all mail. In Arizona, where voters can ask for a mail-in ballot, Democrats and some Republican election officials are calling for an all mail election, at least for this year as the coronavirus causes anxiety for face-to-face contact at the least and sickness and death at the worst. PHOTO BY JOHN FROSCHAUER/ASSOCIATED PRESS
In this March 10, 2020, file photo, a King County Election worker collects ballots from a drop box in Seattle for the primary election in Washington State, where elections are all mail. In Arizona, where voters can ask for a mail-in ballot, Democrats and some Republican election officials are calling for an all mail election, at least for this year as the coronavirus causes anxiety for face-to-face contact at the least and sickness and death at the worst. PHOTO BY JOHN FROSCHAUER/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Saying it is ripe for fraud, many Arizona Republican lawmakers oppose the idea of sending mail ballots to all voters during the COVID-19 crisis, but 79% of the GOP caucus opts for the U.S. Postal Service to deliver their vote.

According to public records, 72 legislators are currently registered onto the Permanent Early Voting List, or PEVL — 37 Republicans and 35 Democrats (one Republican’s voting record is sealed).

Lawmakers like Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, Rep. Travis Grantham, R-Gilbert, Rep. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, Rep. Shawnna Bolick, R-Phoenix, and others have argued against election officials mailing all registered voters a ballot, even temporarily, saying either that it leads to voter fraud, or it disenfranchises voters by limiting their methods of voting.

Advocates for the switch argue that because there’s a pandemic that has already resulted in 27,000 deaths nationwide and 150 in Arizona, policymakers should send ballots to those who haven’t signed up for the PEVL to protect their health and safety while voting.

Election officials have also pointed out even if Arizona switches to an “all mail” election, they would still operate polling places to ensure everyone can vote.

Yavapai County Recorder Leslie Hoffman, a Republican, said polls in some precincts would still have to remain open for drop offs and ballot replacements.

Arizona already allows people to sign up for a mail ballot up to 11 days before an election, but Hoffman and others said that if you leave it up to voters to sign up, you’ll still have lines at the polls. April 15 was the unofficial deadline for the counties to plan for mail voting for the August primary, as election officials need to procure proper election materials. If the state wants to make the switch before the November election, policymakers will need to act by June 15, election officials say.

Some of the most ardent critics of universal voting by mail already receive their ballots in the mail, according to records from the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office.

Senate President Karen Fann, who has pledged that the Senate won’t take up any efforts to send ballots to all voters, gets her ballot in the mail.

Sen. Sine Kerr, R-Buckeye, who tweeted about how mail ballots are insecure, citing her husband’s alleged find of dozens of early ballots in 2019, apparently isn’t worried about hers getting lost on a rural highway – she gets her ballot in the mail. 

Sen. Vince Leach, R-Tucson, who recently shared a Breitbart story about 16 million mail ballots going missing and warned that mail voting “invites” voter fraud and could lead to millions of ineligible voters casting votes, votes by mail. And so does Sen. David Farnsworth, R-Mesa, who warned back in 2019 that mail ballots are a progressive idea that leads to fraud

Petersen, who warned recently that universal mail voting would lead to “universal ballot harvesting,” gets his ballot via mail and encouraged voters to use mail ballots to elect him back in 2016.  Ballot harvesting is a practice in which a voter with a mail-in ballot gives it to someone else to deliver to a polling station. Some political and community groups have made it a practice to go door to door, especially in neighborhoods where they thought sentiment would run in their direction, offering to take unmailed ballots to polling places. 

Arizona has outlawed the practice, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found the ban on ballot harvesting unconstitutional. 

Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley,  who warned that “forcing” voters to vote by mail would lead to more ballot harvesting, also gets a mail ballot. Grantham, who told Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes that we should “stick to the constitution and rule of law” and not send ballots to all voters and that mail ballots make it “easier to cheat”, previously urged mail voters to support him and he gets his ballot in the mail. 

Rep. Leo Biasiucci, R-Lake Havasu City, who repeated President Donald Trump’s claim that mail ballots lead to corruption, votes by mail. 

And then there’s Rep. Bret Roberts, R-Maricopa, who called mail voting a “horrendously bad election integrity killing idea,” is living his ideals. He announced recently that he decided he will no longer vote by mail, and removed himself from the PEVL.

Though there are 90 total lawmakers in the state, only 89 of them appeared on the Secretary of State’s database, likely because one petitioned the court to keep her voting file secret. There may not be any way to find out if Bolick – who has been one of the harshest critics of all voters receiving their ballot through mail, and who penned two op-eds about how voting by mail is rife for fraud, which state election officials contend was riddled with inaccuracies – votes by mail herself.

That’s likely because she is married to Supreme Court Justice Clint Bolick.

State statute says any voter registered at the same residence as an “eligible person” may request that the general public be prohibited from accessing their personal information, such as their address, voting history and registration. Justices, judges (current or former), peace officers, and others are

A spokeswoman for the court confirmed that that information is not a public record and therefore cannot be disclosed.

Bolick did not return a call for comment and Clint Bolick declined to comment on how he submits his ballot.

This battle extends beyond the Legislature to Gov. Doug Ducey, who on April 14 after a press conference on his latest actions in response to the coronavirus crisis, made it clear he’s not in favor of universal mail-in voting either.

“We’re not going to disenfranchise anyone from voting on Election Day,” said Ducey, who’s on PEVL. “We’re going to have more availability to vote, not less.”

Short legislative session threatens multitude of ballot proposals

A sign points to a local polling station for the Arizona Democratic presidential preference election Tuesday, March 17, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
A sign points to a local polling station for the Arizona Democratic presidential preference election Tuesday, March 17, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

An early adjournment to the Legislature to avert the spread of COVID-19 would effectively kill a host of proposed ballot referrals.

There are more than a dozen referendums that could make it onto the ballot come November if they pass votes in the House and Senate, but none of them have advanced through both chambers.

A few have made it through the chamber from where they originated, but await their fate in the second chamber. But all of that may be rendered moot if lawmakers decide to pass a “skinny budget” and get out of Dodge.

Senate President Karen Fann has thoroughly suggested sine die will not happen because there is far too much to do outside of the budget, and there’s no way of knowing where COVID-19 will take them in two weeks or even longer.

The Prescott Republican said she favors passing the budget and then going into an indefinite recess, but no session adjournment.

“We need to leave options open if we need to come back in two months and do something else because there might be something new that we’re not even aware of right now that we will need to address,” she said.

If the Legislature does opt to adjourn though, they would have to abandon efforts like the position of lieutenant governor, who would run on a ticket with the governor, changes to the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, and attempts to independently scale back voters’ power, thus having to wait until the 2022 election cycle. And by then, the makeup of the Legislature could look different and be out of Republican control.

nuttEstablishing a lieutenant governor is one of few ballot referrals this session that has bipartisan support, as it passed through the House with a 40-20 vote. The measure, HCR2020, comes from House Majority Whip Becky Nutt, R-Clifton, and would put the lieutenant governor as the governor’s running mate, and give that person oversight of the Arizona Department of Administration, among other duties.

The presumptive gubernatorial nominees must pick their second-in-command no later than 100 days before the election. And in the instance of the governor having to abandon his or her seat, the lieutenant governor would become next in the line of succession, instead of the secretary of state, as it is now the case.

Sen. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, has made his best strides yet when it comes to getting ample marijuana testing for pesticides. An attempt that would need three-fourths vote in both chambers as a bill, but only a simple majority to land on the ballot for voter-approved changes.

His latest, SCR1032, would propose medical marijuana and other products to be tested for pesticides and it also establishes an additional tax. Borrelli’s measure is also supposed to get a mirror effort in the House in the form of House Speaker Rusty Bowers’ HCR2045, which originally proposed to limit the potency of medical marijuana at 2% THC, but that clause has since been removed. Both measures passed out of their chamber of origin, Borrelli’s with some bipartisan support.

What was looking like a lengthy ballot come November may end up being on the shorter side this year due to the widespread of COVID-19, which doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. It has already had an impact on signature gathering and campaigning, and, on how lawmakers plan to proceed, ballot referrals could be a virus victim.

State argues unsigned ballots invalid

The James R. Browning United States Courthouse building, a courthouse for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, is shown in San Francisco, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
The James R. Browning United States Courthouse building, a courthouse for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, is shown in San Francisco, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

An attorney for the state asked a federal appeals court July 7 to let Arizona refuse to count early ballots that voters forgot to sign initially and did not fix by election night. 

Assistant Attorney General Drew Ensign did not dispute that current law gives up to five days after the election to those whose signatures do not match to “cure” the problem.  

That distinction is what caused U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Rayes to last year declare that it is illegal to deny the same ability to those who did not sign the ballot at all. 

But Ensign told a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that Arizona lawmakers are entitled to have stricter rules  and an earlier deadline  for those who neglect to sign at all. 

In striking down the deadline last year, Rayes did agree to stay his original order. That kept the current deadlines in place for the 2020 election. 

Now the question is what rules will govern the 2022 vote, the one at which all statewide offices are up for grabs along with what is expected to be a close race for the U.S. Senate. 

And that is why the Arizona Democratic Party is trying to keep the extended deadline in place  and why the state, joined by the state and national Republican parties, wants to return to the election night deadline. 

There are not a lot of ballots at issue. In 2018, for example, just 2,435 ballots statewide were rejected because they arrived in unsigned envelopes and the voters never made the trip to county election offices by 7 p.m. on Election Day to “cure” the problem. 

Attorney Elisabeth Frost, representing the Democrats, told the judges that giving the extra time would impose only a minimal burden on election officials. And she pointed out that both Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and recorders from most counties said they saw no problem with providing voters the extra five days. 

The outlier was Pima County where Chris Roads, who was the deputy recorder, provided statements that it would create a significant administrative burden. He said it would require staffers to locate the unsigned ballot, something that can be handled only with workers of two different parties present. 

But Rayes, in his ruling last year, brushed that aside. 

He noted that Pima County rejected just 75 ballots in 2018 due to missing signatures. The judge said that doesn’t qualify as a significant enough burden to justify the election night deadline and deny someone the “fundamental right” to vote and have it counted. 

Frost also argued that an unsigned ballot is the functional equivalent of someone showing up at a polling place on Election Day without the proper identification. In that case, she said, the voter is given five days to provide the necessary ID to ensure the completed ballot is counted. 

But Judge Susan Graber, a judicial nominee of President Clinton, said she’s not buying that comparison. 

“They’re not fully completed,” the judge said of the unsigned ballots. 

“That’s the problem,” Graber continued. “If they were fully completed, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.” 

Ensign, for his part, urged the judges not to buy the argument that those who forget to sign their ballots should be given the same opportunity to fix the problem as those whose signatures did not match what county officials have on file. 

“With signature mismatches, it typically is not the fault of the voter whatsoever, which contrasts completely with the missing signature which is virtually always the complete fault of the voter,” he said. Beyond that, Ensign said that signature matching  the process used by election officials to compare signatures on early ballot envelopes with what is on file  is “inherently subjective and has rates of error for which there are reasons to have cure periods.” 

“By contrast, there is absolutely no evidence in the record whatsoever that Arizona has ever wrongfully determined that a ballot was unsigned when it was, in fact, signed,” he said. 

And Ensign said a mismatched signature can be dealt with by a phone call with the voter to verify that she or he was the one who mailed in the ballot. By contrast, a missing signature requires the voter to go to election offices where workers, one from each party, accompany the ballot and watch the missing signature be put into place. 

That, he said, can slow up the process of counties finishing their counting on time. 

Daniel Shapiro, representing the Republicans, had other legal theories about why the deadline of 7 p.m. on Election Day is legally valid for unsigned ballots and why those who signatures do not match should get that extra five days. 

“Mismatched ballots have long been seen in Arizona to be complete but invalid, making it OK to cure them after the election deadline,” he told the court. 

“But, really, signing an unsigned ballot after Election Day is, in effect, voting after Election Day,” Shapiro continued. “And there is no right to do that.” 

He also called the election night deadline “minimally burdensome.” He said that fact alone should have resulted in Rayes tossing the original lawsuit and ruling against the Democrats. 

Frost, for her part, disputed that the election night deadline imposes only a minimal burden on those who are otherwise legally entitled to vote. But even if the burden is minimal, she argued that Rayes was correct in ruling that is not legally justified. 

This case is different than many of the other challenges that have been made to Arizona election laws. 

In those cases, the claim has been that the law in question results in disparate treatment based on a what the law considers a “protected class,” like gender, race or ethnicity. There has been no evidence presented here of such inequity. 

But Frost said that still does not entitle the state to come up with differing rules for “curing” ballots. 

The judges gave no indication when they will rule. 


The Breakdown: High stakes

Deposit Photo

Marijuana advocates are launching a new effort to legalize the drug. What’s changed since 2016?

A new report says the man in charge of the state’s prisons was “surprisingly uninformed” about broken locks that allowed inmates to harm other inmates and correctional officers

And the fired Senate Democratic staffer who won a $1 million discrimination lawsuit was back in court, asking for more damages and her job back.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The Breakdown on iTunes and Stitcher.


Music in this episode included “Creative Minds,” “Funky Element” and “Energy” by Bensound.

The Breakdown: HOBB-ling toward 2020

Secretary of State Katie Hobbs in her office. Hobbs said problems with the state’s campaign-finance websites will be fixed by the 2020 election. (Photo by Andrew Nicla/Arizona Capitol Times)
Secretary of State Katie Hobbs in her office. Hobbs said problems with the state’s campaign-finance websites will be fixed by the 2020 election. (Photo by Andrew Nicla/Arizona Capitol Times)

The Arizona Secretary of State’s campaign finance websites are broken. The See the Money feature was a pet project of former Secretary of State Michele Reagan and now five years after its inception, it’s still not working properly. What does this mean for next year’s election?

And there are 49 days until the 2020 session so bills are now coming in, what can we expect from legislators in the near future? 


Don’t forget to subscribe to The Breakdown on iTunes and Stitcher.


Music in this episode included “Creative Minds,” “Funky Element” and “Energy” by Bensound.

Ties run deep, many between APS and Republican candidates for utility regulator

APS solar cover companies

With three seats open and five Republicans already filed to run who have ties to Arizona Public Service, the Arizona Corporation Commission is shaping up for a big election in 2020.

Kim Owens, the latest Republican candidate to jump into the race, currently works as a senior account executive for Gordon C. James Public Relations and is the executive director of Dodie Londen Excellence in Public Service Series, both of which have connections to the biggest utility in the state. APS, the largest utility in the state, is regulated by the commission.

APS is one of Gordon C. James’ clients, (the first one listed on the firm’s website), but Owens at first denied any connection she may have.

“I don’t work on the APS file. They are not one of my clients,” she said.

However, Owens later acknowledged that while she doesn’t currently work with APS, she has done some work on behalf of Pinnacle West, the APS parent company, in the past, including web development for Trans Canyon, a Pinnacle West subsidiary, and communications work for a consortium of nuclear power plants, of which Pinnacle West was a member.

Owens joins Sen. David Farnsworth, who terms out of his senate seat in 2020; Eric Sloan, who unsuccessfully ran for the commission in 2018; Commissioner Boyd Dunn, who is up for re-election; and Lea Marquez Peterson, who was appointed to replace Andy Tobin in May though she has not filed to run, yet all signs point to that being likely.

At a minimum those four candidates have received contributions from APS or its parent company in previous elections, but some connections run deeper, including Owens who has a second connection to APS in addition to her PR firm.

Her position as head of the Dodie Londen program, a nonprofit which seeks to train Republican women to win elected office, received $100,000 in contributions from Pinnacle West, since 2014, according to Open Secrets.

Dodie Londen’s only expenditure in 2018 was for Owens’ $30,000 salary. But Owens said APS already had a relationship established with Dodie Londen long before she joined them.

“They’ve also given money to Emerge,” she said, noting that Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs was the director of Emerge, which is the Democratic equivalent of Dodie London.

Hobbs isn’t running for an office that regulates APS, however, but Owens said that APS spends money on a lot of professional development groups and political causes.

“That’s just part of their operating procedure,” she said.

She said people shouldn’t assume that because she has some peripheral ties to the energy giant that she will be in their pocket as a regulator, and that voters should instead look to her service as a longtime school board member and member of the Salt River Project Council.

Since SRP is not a monopoly, it is not regulated by the commission; instead it is regulated by its council.

Owens said her services there proves she understands energy policy, and shows that she has been a “watchdog” for the ratepayer.

The commission has been plagued with controversy after APS and its parent company covertly attempted to choose its own regulators in the 2014 commission election, on top of recent headlines regarding the power shut off of a 72-year-old woman in Sun City who later died due to heat-related factors.

Owens did not want to comment on the latter saying if she wins the race, it could be among the cases she is asked to weigh in on.

She did weigh in on her campaign Facebook page suggestions, which included implementing protocols about cutoffs during extreme weather conditions, additional notifications for at-risk customers and a public information campaign about financial assistance options.

“Much is being said and written about the tragic death of Stephanie Pullman. My first thoughts on learning of this was of her personal suffering and that of her family. Simply said, this cannot happen again. Ever,” she wrote on Facebook.

Owens is only the latest candidate to file, but the others running have ties to APS.

Farnsworth, during his re-election bid for the senate, received just more than $13,000 in contributions and $2,500 of that was from Pinnacle West PAC. He is vying for one of the three open seats in 2020 that are currently occupied by Dunn, Marquez Peterson and Chairman Bob Burns, who terms out.

Sloan, who ran in 2018, received $10,000 from Arizona Coalition for Reliable Electricity, the Pinnacle West-funded independent expenditure group that also supported Burns, Dunn and Tobin in 2016.

Documents that APS submitted to the commission showed that Sloan’s consulting firm, Sloan Lyons, worked for ACRE and received the money in October 2016. Sloan had chaired ACRE, which got $4 million from Pinnacle West and spent the money to help elect Burns, Dunn and Tobin. ACRE disclosed two payments to Sloan Lyons – one for $10,000 and another for $717.05 – later in 2016.

The APS document details the company’s campaign strategy to help the three Republicans get elected in 2016.

An email exchange among Doug Goodyear, the CEO of the consulting firm DCI Group, Jessica Pacheco of APS (who also sits on the Board of Governors at Dodie Londen) and Sara Mueller of SM Strategies in October 2016 mentioned Sloan.

In the email, Mueller asked Goodyear and Pacheco for permission to go ahead with a digital ad for ACRE.

“All the ad campaigns are built out on the back end so we are ready to ‘press play’ to target GOP voters upon creative approval,” Mueller said.

Pacheco replied, “I’m good.”

Goodyear also said he’s good with the ad.

“Proceed, and then work with Eric Sloan, Ashley Ragan, et al for the disclosure and communications with candidates,” Goodyear said.

The commission’s newest member, Marquez Peterson, also took money from APS/Pinnacle West in her 2018 bid for Congress.

Campaign finance data shows Pinnacle West contributed $2,500 to Marquez Peterson’s 2018 CD2 race, while David Hutchens, CEO of Tucson Electric Power, gave her $5,000.

Marquez Peterson now is in charge of regulating both APS and Tucson Electric Power.

To let independents into party primaries would spoil choice


There is a reason the Los Angeles Dodgers don’t get to pick the starting pitchers for the Arizona Diamondbacks when they play against them. If you want to pick the D-Backs starting pitcher, you need to play for the D-Backs. I think most rational people would agree. The question is: do they agree when it comes to picking presidential nominees?

A recent op-ed by Al Bell (Everyone should have a vote in the presidential preference election) lays out a self-contradicting argument for why people who are not a part of any political party ought to have the same say as to the identity of that party’s nominee for president as members of the political party. Mr. Bell describes himself as “a leader in the independent voter movement in Arizona,” and he really wants voters who aren’t Republicans to pick the Republican nominee and voters who aren’t Democrats to pick the Democrat nominee. Naturally, his idea is wrapped in the flag and what it means to be a great American.

Except it’s a terrible idea.

Constantin Querard
Constantin Querard

The Republican and Democratic parties are different. Very different. They hold wildly divergent positions on profound issues and, when left to their own process, they generally produce candidates who offer the voters two very different directions for the country (or state or locality) to choose from. There are also myriad other party nominees (Libertarian, Green, etc.) and independent candidates as well who show up at election time, each offering their own platform. The voters get to choose from all of these options.

“Everyone should have a say” sounds great as an ideal (and I completely agree for general elections), except even Mr. Bell has not suggested that Republicans should be allowed to pick the Democratic nominee or that Democrats should be allowed to pick the Republican nominee. I assume it is because he knows the opportunity for gamesmanship or sabotage would be too great. We have plenty of historical examples of states – where independent voters are allowed to participate in presidential primary elections – being the scenes of organized efforts to get voters who are hostile to the GOP to vote for the least electable GOP candidate and vice versa with the Democrats. Those are cases of independent voters actively working to ensure the country the worst possible choices in the general election – a far cry from Bell’s claim that their involvement would somehow produce improvements. Bell himself accidentally acknowledges this when he writes, “Some independents are clearly anti-party,” so why would the parties invite anti-party voters into their selection process?

It is also logical that if the voter pools for both the Democratic and Republican primaries become so ideologically blended that they are mere reflections of each other, the nominees chosen will be equally similar, offering the nation not a choice, but an echo. That would also serve the nation poorly. Blend the primaries together enough and why bother having a primary at all? Mr. Bell will eventually have us in something akin to a two-round general election.

In Arizona, independents are allowed to vote in legislative primaries, and many do. Come the general election many voters complain that there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between the Democrats and Republicans they get to choose from. That’s not a complaint you heard for Bush v Kerry, Obama v Romney, or Trump v Clinton. Part of the reason is that the party primary process is an audition for who best can champion the values of a political party and at the presidential level it is still dominated by closed primaries.

As I mentioned before, Mr. Bell doesn’t think Republicans should get to vote in Democratic primaries and vice-versa, so he doesn’t really want “everyone” to have a say. He just wants to be an independent voter so that he can keep a distance from the organized parties, while helping himself to all of the benefits of membership in those parties. That is neither patriotic nor consistent with any founding ideals.

Constantin Querard is founder and president of Grassroots Partners.

Virus impact spreads to elections, campaigning

A woman uses hand sanitizer after voting in the presidential primary election at the Summit View Church of the Nazarene March 10, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo. The polling place served two precincts as voters who were scheduled to vote at a nearby senior living facility were directed to vote at the church after the facility backed out due to coronavirus concerns. With the virus beginning to take hold in Arizona, the state's Presidential Preference Election and the subsequent election season will be filled with myriad issues related to the virus. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
A woman uses hand sanitizer after voting in the presidential primary election at the Summit View Church of the Nazarene March 10, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo. The polling place served two precincts as voters who were scheduled to vote at a nearby senior living facility were directed to vote at the church after the facility backed out due to coronavirus concerns. With the virus beginning to take hold in Arizona, the state’s Presidential Preference Election and the subsequent election season will be filled with myriad issues related to the virus. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

From the moment Gov. Doug Ducey called a state of emergency to combat the spread of COVID-19, political candidates, campaign staffs and election officials began to plan how to tackle elections in the coming months.

As public health officials call for social distancing, candidates and ballot campaigns are still collecting signatures with fast deadlines approaching, county recorders are receiving mail-in ballots for the March 17 Presidential Preference Election, poll workers are taking necessary precautions and campaigners are struggling to figure out how to help their candidates get elected in the early-August primaries and even come the general election in November.

All eyes have been on Arizona for the 2020 election cycle as Democrats push for a political shift in the state, but unforeseen circumstances could get in the way of how those ballots will look – at least on a local level.

State and local candidates have until early-April to submit valid signatures from registered voters to get on the ballot, citizen initiatives have until July, and political consultants think now is time to worry about not getting on the ballot.

Tony Valdovinos
Tony Valdovinos

Tony Valdovinos, the founder of La Machine Field Operations, said he is prepared to end campaigning all together to protect his employees’ health and safety.

He and his company have made a name as a fierce campaigning effort to get Democrats on the ballot and they personally go door-to-door during the season to increase voter turnout. Under a state of emergency, that makes things difficult especially if things escalate to a point where people can’t leave their homes, Valdovinos said.

He said right now his team is collecting signatures for initiatives and candidates, so the ground game hasn’t taken off yet.

“We’re [already] canceling campaign rallies,” Valdovinos said. “What’s most important is [taking] precaution.”

Valdovinos told Arizona Capitol Times that there’s a lot of uncertainty on what can be done at this point, but he is planning for the worst. He is preparing for a bigger challenge on collecting signatures for ballot initiatives and candidates with events getting canceled left and right.

For those in the business of pressing palms and kissing babies, the Coronavirus is going to throw their lives, and this election season, into disarray.

Joe Wolf, a Democratic political consultant who worked on the Mike Bloomberg campaign and is now running his PAC in Arizona, said the virus will impact every aspect of political life, starting with the ability to gather signatures to qualify for the ballot.

“Who wants to touch a pen right now? God knows how many people touched that pen. Who wants to touch a clipboard? This will be very painful for all involved,” he said.

“Who wants to touch a pen right now? God knows how many people touched that pen. Who wants to touch a clipboard? This will be very painful for all involved.” – Joe Wolf, Democratic political consultant

He said the initiatives will feel the pain worse, considering those efforts need between 238,000 and 357,000 signatures, compared to legislative candidates, who need just a few hundred signatures to qualify for the ballot. (Unlike initiatives, politicians have given themselves the ability to collect all of their signatures online).

While candidates can go door-to-door for their signatures, initiatives rely on big events, including sporting events, St. Patrick’s Day events and the Presidential Preference Election. The same goes for voter registration campaigns, which often hit up large public events to try to get more voters on the rolls. But candidates knocking on doors won’t be immune to the fear of the coronavirus either, he said.

“If someone knocks on your door and says, ‘Hey, here’s a clipboard and a pen, please sign.’ It’s still gonna cause a little bit of hesitation. But it probably won’t be as bad as site-based work,” Wolf said.  “Like, there’s no way in hell I’m going to ask one of my organizers to go down to a St. Patty’s Day event and hand out a clipboard and a pen to God knows how many people.”

Dawn Penich-Thacker, the spokeswoman for Save Our Schools Arizona, is working on another grassroots effort to collect signatures for a ballot initiative and said she fully prepares to see the SOS initiative on the ballot come November barring one potential setback.

Joe Wolf
Joe Wolf

“Unless we all get locked into our home because of coronavirus or something, that might be a little bit of a damper,” she said.

And if the Coronavirus is still raging when the election is in full swing, Democrats will have a strong message to hammer the GOP candidates with.

The otherwise booming economy President Donald Trump’s policies helped create is tanking, and if it doesn’t rebound by November, the old adage of “it’s the economy, stupid” will once again be on everyone’s minds. Wolf said Democrats will absolutely hammer that message, if the economy doesn’t recover.

“The argument that so many Republicans have made that ‘I voted for Trump because of my 401K’ — whatever gains you had in your 401K since he took office were probably just wiped out today,” Wolf said.

“If people are losing their jobs, losing their homes and their retirements are going up in smoke like it’s 2008 again, how does that not get thrown at Donald Trump’s feet?” he said, noting that Trump originally implied the threat was a hoax. And the virus gives Democrats an opening to talk about the state of American health care, which polls consistently show is a top issue for Arizona voters and the nation at large.

Republican political consultant Chuck Coughlin agreed that if the scheduled April and July deadlines happen as planned there will likely be candidates and initiatives that won’t make the ballot. But even attempting to extend those deadlines could cost a lot of money, which Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said won’t happen anyway.

Coughlin said petition gathering at public events will be problematic because that’s where it is generally most successful.

A few candidates are starting to take their own precautions by canceling campaign events or closing their offices.

Sen. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, said she’s going to suspend all “face-to-face” campaigning and Anita Malik a Democrat in a tough primary challenge in Congressional District 6 has already taken the step to shut down her campaign offices, and start working remotely. She could not be reached for comment, but in a press release also shared to her Twitter account said she was canceling all meet and greet events and volunteer events.

“We’ve built a remote, distributed team of volunteers for #AZ06. If you want to work from home, let us know. We’ll be having digital training & digital voter conversations,” she wrote.

That’s not an approach Valdovinos thinks will be effective for him because a big part of his success is being able to speak to voters in both English and Spanish and help educate them on “who and what’s on the ballot.”

“This year is one of those enormous years for a lot of referendums on the ballot. So it is going to reduce our operation and we’re going to have to most likely move into digital and phone banking,” he said, which makes them less effective.

“I think the number one concern is people’s health and safety, including ours and our families. So, if it comes down to it, and we don’t have an election year, so be it. But, ultimately, I think it’s gonna be a very innovative way to reach out to voters this year,” he said.

Coughlin said when it comes to voting in person, whether for city elections, the PPE or looking ahead to the August primary – which is the earliest it has ever been – it’s likely poll workers will be wearing gloves and at a minimum there will be hand sanitizer stations.

Chuck Coughlin
Chuck Coughlin

To put it simply, Coughlin said things are going to be problematic. “Particularly for older people,” he said, adding that they are the ones who tend to vote in person rather than early by mail. How things are handled for same day voting will come down to the county recorders, he said.

Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes said that while the situation may be alarming to some, it will be business as usual for his office for now, but Election Day will come with a few key tweaks.

“Verifying votes in the age of COVID-19 was just like we did it before,” Fontes said. “Nothing changes in early voting, but Election Day is different and it’s yet another reason why we should be a vote at home state.”

Fontes said 65 percent of Maricopa County poll workers are over 60 years old; he’s concerned for their safety and the safety of voters and said he asked the state to mail ballots to everyone to minimize unnecessary contact and further control things. But, that’s not happening. So, his staff is training polling workers to wipe down workstations, thoroughly clean polling places before opening and after closing, working on backup staffing for people who don’t want to work, as well as keeping staff updated on what federal and state health experts are saying about the virus.

Elections officials in the county are encouraging people to vote earlier than later if they want to avoid crowds and to use drop-off locations if they do have to come in person.

Regardless of the scare, Fontes doesn’t think this will affect turnout, as more Democrats have voted in this election than in 2016. That turnout is evidence to Fontes that mail-in ballots work and that it’s time to ditch what he called an old model.

“You know, there’s no getting around the fact that everyone who’s already voted has already voted,” Fontes said. “It’s this insistence that we have on polling places where we have logistical issues, personnel issues; now we have health and safety issues. Folks hang on to old models for the wrong reasons when we have perfectly good new models that are more secure or less expensive, and clearly in this circumstance, they’re healthier.”

Maricopa County had 571,045 ballots requested and 251,210, or about 44 percent, have been returned.

Kathren Coleman, Fontes’ deputy county recorder, said as of March 12 the county has already surpassed the 2016 PPE vote totals.

Fontes and his staff are also closing and moving five polling locations out of elder care facilities to minimize any risk of spreading the virus to them. As far as Fontes is concerned, the county is ready for anything.

“What’s going on right now is really a question of, ‘are we prepared for the worst case scenario?’ And I can tell you we’re prepared for everything but Godzilla.” – Adrian Fontes, Maricopa County Recorder

“What’s going on right now is really a question of, ‘are we prepared for the worst case scenario?’ And I can tell you we’re prepared for everything but Godzilla.”

Yavapai County Elections Director Lynn Constabile said while her county has a larger elderly population than most, her county is different.

“The elderly population votes by mail, they don’t go out,” Constabile said, adding that the county expects about 5,000 voters to show up on Election Day.

“Usually, we see working people, around 20 to 55, that are at the polls,” she said.

For those who do show up, Constabile said polling places will encourage people to use drop-off boxes for mail-in ballots instead of going inside. Polling staff is also being told to remember to not touch their faces, eyes or mouths and to wash their hands, as well as cleaning touched surfaces.

Constabile said voters should take precautions but rest easy knowing they are doing everything they can to ensure things run safely and as usual.

“People shouldn’t be afraid to come out and vote,” Constabile said.

Yellow Sheet Report Editor Hank Stephenson and reporter Julia Shumway contributed to this story.

About The Author

Dillon Rosenblatt is the Education and Courts reporter and can be found on Twitter @DillonReedRose or at [email protected]

Andrew Nicla is the Governor’s Office reporter and can be found on Twitter @AndrewNicla or at [email protected]