Arizona Secretary Of State Proposes To Change Voting Procedures

By Jill Ryan
Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
Published: Thursday, September 9, 2021 - 10:44am
Updated: Thursday, September 9, 2021 - 12:32pm
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Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs is proposing to require county officials to count ballots for president and statewide offices even if the voter casts it at the wrong polling location.

This comes after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a bid by the Democratic National Committee to force the state to count such out-of-precinct votes. The majority concluded that there is nothing legally wrong with the current practice of discarding such ballots.

But Hobbs’ general counsel, Bo Dul, says the ruling does not keep her boss from changing the rules. 

Hobbs’ aide Murphy Hebert agrees. 

“There's nothing in state statute that requires you to throw out those ballots. That was something that was included in our past Election Procedures Manual," Hebert said.

The Democratic Secretary, Hebert says, can revise that manual, effectively changing the rules. 

But Eric Spencer, a former state elections director disagrees. He pointed out that U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Rayes, who first ruled against the Democrats, concluded that precinct-based voting is part of state law. What that means, Spencer said, is that the secretary of state cannot simply decide on her own to allow the counting of out-of-precinct votes.

In a prepared statement, state GOP Chair Kelli Ward says "precinct-based voting is essential to election integrity” and changing the rules would turn every polling place into a de-facto voting center. 

Most of Arizona’s counties have already set up voting centers, including Maricopa County. Just five counties still retain precinct-based voting. Hobbs' proposal, if approved, would take effect next year.