Concerns Build Over May 17 Arizona Election Pamphlet Glitch

By Will Stone
Published: Friday, May 6, 2016 - 6:11pm
Updated: Saturday, May 7, 2016 - 9:34am
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(Photo courtesy of Arizona Secretary of State)
Arizona Special Election Guide.

About 200,000 Arizona voters did not receive their election information guides far enough in advance of the May 17 special election.

On April 22 Yavapai County Recorder Leslie Hoffman began getting phone calls from voters, saying they hadn’t received their publicity pamphlets.

“I got mine last night when I got home,” Hoffman said. “There’s some great information in there that people need to know to make an informed decision before they make their votes.”

That includes arguments for and against the ballot measures, analysis from the legislative staff and details about voting. Concerned, Hoffman contacted the Arizona Secretary of State’s office. State law requires these pamphlets are issued no less than 10 days before the start of an election, meaning when early ballots go out.

It turns out Yavapai wasn’t the only county where pamphlets were delayed.

“We are aware that some people received them, but I’ve been checking with organizations and people out in the public and most of the people I talk to have not received a publicity pamphlet,” said Cochise County Recorder Christine Rhodes.

She said early voting is already underway and worries many people didn’t receive their pamphlets in time.

Altogether about 200,000 voters — all outside Pima and Maricopa Counties — were affected, said Matt Roberts with the Secretary of State's office.

He said the moment Hoffman alerted his office about the issue, they began investigating.

“It is a back-end exclusionary selection that our vendor did not inform us of,” Roberts said.

Roberts said a software glitch was inadvertently overlooking a certain group of voters who should have been on the mailing list.

“These would have been folks where every voter in a particular household was on the permanent early voter list,” Roberts said.

He said within a week they were able to resolve the problem with the printing company and more than 200,000 pamphlets were sent out last week. Most voters should have received them by now, Roberts said.

This information has also been available on the Secretary of State’s website all along.

But that solution might be coming too late.

Local attorney and activist Tom Ryan said he’s deeply concerned about this lapse.

“It’s a legal mandate to get [the pamphlets] out not less than ten days before the start of an election,” Ryan said.

State law also requires that the Secretary of State be in strict compliance with the rules for running a referendum election.

“An election challenge could be brought before May 17, and there’s substantial evidence of failure to comply with that law,” Ryan said. "This is just an embarrassment."

Ryan said he’s considering a challenge. The Chandler attorney is known for high-profile legal actions in the political arena and has also been an outspoken opponent of this special election’s headliner: Proposition 123, Governor Doug Ducey’s plan to tap the state land trust for billions of dollars in education funding.   

Roberts acknowledges the 200,000 pamphlets are going out after the deadline, but he doesn’t see this as having a major impact on voters.

“Many folks I’m sure take the time to educate themselves via their local newspaper, the media, their legislators. We make a lot of information available on our site,” he said, adding that publicity pamphlets are a part of that.

As for why they didn’t alert the public back at the end of April about the problem?

“In all candor, we’ve been focused on getting those pamphlets out immediately and as soon as possible,” Roberts said.

The pamphlets don’t just contain information about what is on the ballot.

Coconino County Recorder Patty Hansen said she’s worried because those pamphlets also detail polling information, which is different during this special election.

“A lot of voters will be voting at polling places that they don’t normally vote at," Hansen said.

Because of that concern, her office sent out postcards on Tuesday letting voters know where they should go to vote.

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