A bipartisan elections task force in Arizona released a set of pragmatic, forward-thinking policy recommendations this week that “offer a preview of what the future of Arizona’s election system could look like.” The task force, convened by Gov. Katie Hobbs (D-AZ), highlights the transformative potential of collaborative policymaking in advancing election policy solutions amidst increasing political volatility.
In a state like Arizona, where election administration has been the subject of intense partisan interest, it is imperative that policymakers attempt to ease conflict and take a bipartisan approach to maintaining secure and accessible elections. The Arizona task force arrived at its recommendations through a policymaking process that BPC strongly supports: prioritizing bipartisan cooperation and the expertise of election officials. The task force includes members of the Arizona legislature representing both political parties, with Gov. Hobbs, a Democrat, and former Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell, a Republican, serving as co-chairs. Additionally, nine of the 18 members have experience as state and local election officials.
Bringing election practitioners together to discuss policy reforms transcends partisan motives and puts free and fair elections front and center. The Arizona task force proposes 16 changes to the state’s election policies, many of which have been endorsed by BPC’s Task Force on Elections in prior reports. This shared consensus underscores the pivotal role of collaborative policymaking in funding durable solutions: when bipartisanship meets practitioner expertise, tried-and-true best practices naturally arise.
The reforms span numerous election administration topics. Below, we delve into three distinct areas—physical security, workforce, and voter registration—to show how the task force’s input enhanced each policy.
Many election facilities in Arizona are in aging buildings not designed for current security needs and practices. In a state facing elevated levels of threats and harassment of election officials, it is imperative that all facilities are able to protect the physical security of voting equipment, ballots, and election workers.
Drawing on their direct experience with election facilities, the Arizona task force recommends creating a $12.5 million annual statewide fund to bolster physical security. Cities and counties could seek funding for security improvement projects, such as construction or renovation of election administration buildings. This funding structure keeps decision-making authority in the hands of local officials while increasing the pool of available resources—a unique approach to local and state power sharing that reflects the task force’s local perspective.
Workforce Recruitment and Training
Election offices nationwide are grappling with high turnover, risking the loss of institutional knowledge, especially as we approach the 2024 presidential election. The Arizona task force puts forth several strategies to cultivate an election workforce that can withstand high turnover.
One recommendation is a paid fellowship program for recent graduates to acquire practical experience in election administration. This program aims to both assist county election administrators in fostering a sustainable talent pool and address immediate staffing shortages. The governor has dedicated $1 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to support this program.
Additionally, the Arizona task force recommends a statutory revision to provide election officer certification training at no cost to participating officials and to make it available annually, rather than solely in odd-numbered years. Offering yearly, free training would increase the number of election workers able to participate, thereby improving the performance and professionalism of Arizona’s elections.
These reforms not only tackle the immediate challenges facing election offices but also establish a foundation for future generations. Such nuanced reforms, designed to meet the diverse needs of all relevant stakeholders, exemplify the task force’s thoughtful and inclusive approach.
Funding Arizona’s Voter Registration Database
In every state except North Dakota, a reliable, well-run, and accurate voter registration database is a prerequisite for a smooth election. Maintaining accurate records guarantees that eligible voters are able to vote on the correct ballot corresponding to their current address. Ensuring that voter rolls are free of deceased or ineligible individuals protects against fraud. However, a reliable voter registration database doesn’t come free.
Currently, there is no consistent source of funding for Arizona’s Voter Information Database (AVID), deemed “the heart of Arizona elections.” Counties cover 40% of the cost, often using funds from federal grants. Given the unpredictable and uncertain nature of federal funding for elections, the task force recommends that the Arizona legislature appropriate funds to cover the operating costs for AVID.
Consistent state funding would empower election officials to implement necessary enhancements to AVID, thereby enhancing the system for both voters and election administrators. Additionally, it would provide counties with the flexibility to redirect funds currently allocated to AVID toward other essential aspects of election administration, alleviating resource limitations and enhancing the voting experience.
The Future of Elections in Arizona
Arizona’s Bipartisan Elections Task Force dedicated 11 months to the painstaking but rewarding work of developing its recommendations. The task force leverages the expertise of the state’s election workforce to envision innovative ways to strengthen Arizona’s high-quality, resilient, and secure elections in an ever-changing political and demographic terrain. We encourage Arizona’s legislature, governor, and secretary of state to strongly consider the task force’s recommendations to advance pragmatic, practitioner-informed policies that will benefit all Arizonans.
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