A new bill from Arizona State House Speaker Ben Toma (R-Peoria), which involves the publication of election ballot images, passed through the House Municipal Oversight & Elections Committee Wednesday. State Senator Ken Bennett (R-Prescott), a former Arizona Secretary of State, has a mirror bill in the State Senate and spoke in favor of Toma’s bill during the meeting.
“I don’t think this is a partisan issue. We have got to come together somehow as Republicans and Democrats in Arizona to make our elections transparent, trackable, and publicly verifiable,” Bennett said.
Toma and Bennett’s bills, HB 2560 and SB 1324, respectively, would require four documents to be made public around an election. First, ten days before an election, county recorders would be required to produce a list of individuals eligible to vote in that election, including inactive voters. The recorder would publish this list, including the voter’s name, birth year, street address, and precinct number. However, protected voters, such as judges, police, or anyone on the Address Confidentiality Program, will not have their identifying information shared and will only be recorded as tallies.
Moreover, no more than two days after the counties deliver their canvasses, the recorder must submit a list of all who voted in the election to the Secretary of State (SOS) and make it public. The same identification policies apply to this list. Bennett said people could use the before and after lists to ensure that only registered people voted.
The recorders would then provide the ballot images and cast vote record (CVR). The ballot images show the exact markings made on a ballot but do not reveal the voter’s identity. Bennett explained that the CVR is the tabulation spreadsheet, so anyone with the ballot images can cross-check the marks made on every ballot in the state with what was officially tabulated.
Bennett emphasized that nothing in this bill is meant to reveal the identity or spoil the confidentiality of any voter. Under the bill, anyone who alters the contents of a ballot image or the CVR commits a class 1 misdemeanor, although Bennett said he would like to see that raised to a class 5 felony. On the subject of changes to the bill, Bennett acknowledged that there would likely be amendments in the future and that he is working with both parties to make it as strong and realistic to enforce as possible.
Moreover, this was not just a partisan push, as Arizona SOS Adrian Fontes (D) also spoke in its favor at the meeting.
“I hope like heck, Madam chair and all of the members here, you will advance this [the bill],” Fontes said, “so we can actually get something done here that I truly believe, or wouldn’t be standing here before you talking about it, will increase not only our voter’s confidence in our system but that public verifiability that so many people are looking for across the political spectrum.”
Furthermore, when the crowd was allowed to speak, a representative from the nonpartisan organization AUDIT USA (AU) spoke in favor of the bill. The AU is in an ongoing legal battle to obtain Maricopa County ballot images from the Arizona 2020 election.
However, even with Fonte’s support, all Democrat members of the committee voted against the bill. State Representative Laura Terech (D-Scottsdale) voted no, stating this bill presents a “major change” for Arizona and that more discussion is needed regarding the potential privacy issues before she would be willing to push it forward.
Ultimately, the bill passed the committee by a vote of six to four.
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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Ben Toma” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0. Background Photo “Ballots” by immortalpoet. CC BY-SA 2.0.