From their pulpit at press conferences, they shrugged off questions and concerns about the potential for long lines on election day and whether they would have their voting centers properly equipped. For weeks, the mainstream media blasted out to Arizonans that they are competent election officials, about to implement the “safest, most secure” election in history.
Then it all came crumbling down in what was one of the worst election days in recent history. Long lines, yes. But more importantly, critical equipment failures resulted in the complete inability to tabulate ballots at dozens of voting locations for several hours. It didn’t stop there. The issues persisted in the coming weeks for Maricopa County, who responded to requests for information with hostility. And then, we found out Pinal County (following major problems in their primary election) had miscounted hundreds of ballots, shrinking the already miniscule gap between the candidates for attorney general.
Two months later, these issues are still being litigated. But regardless of how the election contests being pursued by Kari Lake and Abe Hamadeh turn out, nothing changes the fact that Maricopa and Pinal Counties bungled the election.
Going forward, Arizona must learn from what happened, craft meaningful solutions, and focus efforts on productive goals ahead of 2024.
We Need a Legitimate Investigation into Maricopa and Pinal Counties
What happened in Maricopa and Pinal Counties is nothing short of a disaster. Internal reviews or nontransparent “audits” conducted by the counties themselves won’t cut it. We need a thorough and transparent investigation into what led to the various issues in these counties to find out what really happened. Why did so many printers malfunction the morning of the election? Why did it take more than half the day to fix them? Why were early ballots not counted before they were transported from the voting centers? These and numerous other questions demand real answers.
At this time, the state legislature is the only entity capable of sufficiently investigating the election day failures. Lawmakers may look to do it themselves, but it may make more sense to hire an independent investigator to conduct the work. An ex-prosecutor or judge would make the most sense given their experience with conducting investigations and executing subpoenas (which the legislature has the authority to do). The cloud surrounding the election offices in Maricopa and Pinal won’t be lifted until a thorough and transparent investigation is completed.
We Must Defend and Enforce New Election Integrity Laws
It’s important to remember that in the last two legislative sessions, lawmakers and the governor did enact dozens of meaningful election reforms. Just last session, two of the most critical were signed. Together these two laws will ensure only qualified, U.S. citizens are able to register to vote (HB2492) and that only eligible voters remain registered by requiring regular voter roll maintenance (HB2243). Both laws went into effect on January 1st of this year.
Unsurprisingly, the Left (including the Biden administration) has filed multiple lawsuits in federal court to stop these laws that will prevent illegals from voting and clean up the voter rolls from impacting the 2024 election. HB 2492 and HB 2243 must be staunchly defended in court, but that is not likely to happen with Democrat Kris Mayes currently occupying the office of attorney general.
Recently, the Republican National Committee successfully intervened in the case, meaning the laws, now in effect, still have some protection. But the better news is that Republicans retained their majorities in both legislative chambers. Now we need them, the individuals who passed these bills into law, to intervene in these lawsuits as well and protect their work to ensure only qualified individuals are registered and voting in our elections.
We Should Proactively Litigate to Hold Election Officials Accountable
What can’t be denied from this past election is that counties and their election officials are acting lawlessly when it comes to implementing elections. It’s not always that we need new laws or reforms to existing statutes. First and foremost, what we need is for current laws to be enforced.
The Left has been involved in proactive lawfare for years, making every election cycle more and more litigious as they sue over every commonsense reform conservatives enact. Most importantly, these liberal groups do not wait for the election to start filing lawsuits. Unlike our side, the bulk of their legal activity occurs outside of election season, seeking change through the courts while most are not paying attention.
Our side must start engaging in this fight as well, to ensure that existing laws—like maintaining chain of custody for early ballots between the voting center and central count facility, not allowing early ballots to be injected into the system at a private vendor (Runbeck), and others that were potentially ignored in 2022—are faithfully adhered to moving forward.
We Need to Continue Pushing for Good Election Integrity Policy at the Legislature
Katie Hobbs is not likely to sign any good election integrity proposals, but that doesn’t mean the legislature should stop doing its job—legislating and governing on behalf of the voters who elected them.
For example, Arizona voters are tired of the weeks-long tabulation process, with drops of new ballots here and there over the course of two or more weeks. We deserve to know, or at least have a good idea, who has won on election night. Last session, Senator J.D Mesnard tried to accomplish that with SB1362 to require counties to tabulate the early ballots of voters who appear at a voting location on election day after showing ID. The bill did pass and was signed into law, but through the process it became permissive, simply allowing the counties to offer the opportunity to voters.
This session, lawmakers should mandate it. That would provide voters more options for casting their ballots, increase the number of voters showing ID before casting a ballot, and increase confidence and transparency in the process by eliminating the possibility of those ballots being adjudicated. This would allow voters to tabulate their own ballots themselves and work toward the goal of obtaining results on election night.
Reforms like this increase both access and security, making it easy to vote and hard to cheat. It is a commonsense proposal. There are and will be others too, and Republicans should work to get them passed and on to Katie Hobbs’ desk.
Whether it’s in litigation, through the legislature exercising its oversight authority, or lawmakers crafting commonsense reforms, there is still work to be done. And there is ample opportunity for Arizona voters to have secure elections in which they have confidence in the results, regardless of the outcome.
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