Following two hotly contested and controversial election cycles, Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer released a 28-page document containing 12 potential reforms that attempt to address issues within the election system that he believes will leave as little space as possible. for the objection.
One of the main sources of electoral doubt in the last two elections has been the amount of time it takes to decide the results. Arizona has been unable to report near-complete results on election night for two reasons. First, the margins in recent high-profile races have been so close that almost all ballots must be counted before a result can be determined. Second, there has been a substantial increase in “late early ballots.”
Late early ballots are ballots that were “received by the voter by mail, filled out, placed in a signed and sealed affidavit envelope, and returned to a polling place.” election day.” These ballots represented almost 20% of the ballots in 2022, which delayed the announcement of the results. Richer proposes scrapping “late early voting altogether.” He proposes that mail-in ballots be sent out several days before Election Day, perhaps the Friday before.
This solution would work well with his second proposal which would allow on-site tabulation centers to begin counting early votes in person three days before Election Day on Saturday. This would change existing Arizona law that only allows early in-person vote counting to begin on Election Day to align with many other states that have already adopted this reform. In addition to helping announce election results faster, Richer believes this system would help alleviate any technical issues on Election Day by using the equipment in the days leading up to diagnose and resolve any potential issues with the equipment.
Richer also addressed what he saw as weaknesses within the structures responsible for supervising and conducting the elections. Specifically, he proposed a restructuring of the roles and responsibilities of county recorders and county boards of supervisors.
Currently, county registrars are “responsible for voter registration, early voting, and provisional ballots,” while supervisors are “responsible for emergency voting, Election Day, and tabulation.”
Richer finds this system confusing for voters who may not know who to contact if they have questions.
To address this issue, Richer proposes that Arizona treat registrars as CEOs and task supervisors with oversight of the administrative aspect of the elections, including delegating administration to contracted professionals. According to Richer, this would provide political stability, as full board rotations are very rare.
At election time, Richer has observed voter confusion and frustration when third-party organizations send voter registration forms with return envelopes to the county recorder. Many voters are confused by these packets, believing they come from the Recorder’s Office itself. To reduce confusion, Richer proposes that these third parties should be required to “prominently disclose that they are not of a government entity.” Representative John Kavanagh introduced such an idea as a bill last session, but it failed to pass the Senate after passing the House.
Richer also proposes a robust increase in funding for the Voter Access Information Database (AVID). Created in 2016, AVID includes data from various state and federal agencies, as well as information on incarcerations and death records. Thirteen counties in Arizona use AVID as their voter registration system. Richer and other county registrars want AVID updated, maintained and improved so that voter concerns about ineligible voters participating in elections can be allayed. He is proposing that AVID begin receiving dedicated funding through the Legislature that will go toward much-needed improvements.
As Arizona politicians already prepare for 2024, a Republican legislature may change some election laws with the support of Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs. Richer’s suggestions could influence her decision-making.
You can learn more about Stephen Richer and the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office here.