Concerns raised by Yuma County Recorder lead to review of proposed protocols
PHOENIX, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has told the Secretary of State to call off plans for some election protocols designed to increase accessibility to voter registration and ballot assistance.
He's also asking the state Attorney General to take a closer look at the legality of those same proposed programs.
Ducey's decision comes just days after Yuma County Recorder Robin Stallworth Poquette first raised her own concerns about the new practices.
Secretary of State Katie Hobbs unveiled the plans last week. The first expanded telephonic voter registration. It would have allowed Arizonans to begin their voter registration on the phone, then complete it at the polls on election day.
The program aimed to accomodate those without access to the internet, or the paper registration forms available at county elections offices.
The second program sought to provide a videoconferencing option for those unable to vote in person. It focused primarily on voters confined to hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities.
It would have provided a means for virtual voting, with a third party providing the verifying signature on those ballots.
That raised a red flag for Poquette. It prompted her to reach out to the state. In an email dated Sunday she wrote:
"As all counties have faced challenges due to COVID-19, security and integrity remain a priority and I feel strongly that the recommendations diminish security and integrity and I do not feel I'n able to accomodate any such requests for the recommended procedures."-Email from Yuma County Recorder Robin Stallworth Poquette
The next day Gov. Ducey contacted Sec. Hobbs about the proposed practices, and shared some of the concerns raised by Poquette and other state election officials.
The Secretary of State defended her plans writing:
"...the integrity of our elections also requires a deeper commitment from elections officials; a commitment to maximize the enfranchisement of voter and to facilitate the ease of the process of voting within the contours of our constitution and laws."-Letter to Gov. Doug Ducey from Secretary of State Katie Hobbs
Hobbs went on to say, she needed to make adjustments to provide accessibility to all Arizonans in the age of coronavirus.
"...voters face new barriers to the ballot box, barriers which our Offices have collaborated to reduce. But those who have been most affected by the pandemic—particularly those in long-term care facilities, those who are hospitalized, and members of tribal nations—still face barriers to democratic participation that may remain insurmountable despite our shared efforts."-Letter to Gov. Doug Ducey from Secretary of State Katie Hobbs
Poquette told KYMA.com Wednesday, she understands, and shares the secretary of state's desire to serve the voters, but the law must be followed.
"In regard to security and integrity…at the end of the day that is a priority. You have to balance that with serving the voter and implementing procedures at the final hour that are not legally permissible are problematic for all election officials." said Poquette
In the end, Gov. Ducey had the final word. He told Hobbs to stop plans for both programs. In a letter to the secretary of state he wrote:
"The responsibility of election to uphold our constitution and laws is not only a crucial responsibility, it should stand as the final test on whether changes to our election policies and procedures are appropriate - no exceptions. As our nation embarks on the next general election, the eyes of the country will be on Arizona, and the only way we can assure the electorate of the integrity of our election system is to refrain from changes in the middle of the election cycle. This isn't the time to experiment."-Letter to Secretary of State Hobbs from Gov. Ducey
"If that hadn’t been vetted, then we clearly have a security issue, and it’s most important for me to maintain security." said Poquette.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Ducey weighed in on the issue yet again, issuing a definitive order for Hobb's office to stop all telephonic registration. He took it a step further, writing:
"We remain concerned and believe the practice falls outside of the confines of the law. We are requesting Attorney General Brnovich look into this practice."-Letter to Secretary of State Hobbs from Gov. Ducey
Poquette said the programs, even if well-intentioned, may have been implemented too late in the game.
"Election laws are very complicated, and that is actually part of my concern. When you have the volume of procedures and processes to maintain a strong faith in the security of elections, that requires a specific amount of preparation." she said.
The recorder said, for her, it's essential public confidence in the election process remains high ahead of November 3rd's general election.
"We don’t need any additional reasons to promote mistrust of the electoral process that’s my main concern."