Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Rep. Clark Proposes Five Policy Changes to the Arizona Elections Process

Five Policy Changes that the Arizona Legislature
Can Take Before End of Session to Reform our Elections Process
At a press conference today, Rep. Ken Clark, D-Phoenix (District 24), introduced a plan for reforming the elections process in Arizona. The recent Presidential Preference Election saw a 70 percent decrease in the number of polling centers compared to the previous election, which forced thousands of voters in Maricopa County to wait hours in long lines before casting their ballots. The difficulties those voters experienced demonstrate that common-sense but significant changes to the elections process are necessary. To ensure that all Arizona voters have the opportunity to participate in their state’s future elections, Rep. Clark proposed the following five policy changes:

  1.  Amend state statute so that, like other counties, Maricopa County must have one polling place for no more than ever 2,000 voters. Currently, Arizona law allows a county with over 200,000 active registered voters to have no more than one-half of the number of precincts as of January 1st of a presidential election years. A.R.S. § 16-248(C). Counties with a lower number of active registered voters are required to have no more than one polling place for every 2,000 active registered voters. Larger counties should have to meet the same standards for polling places as are smaller counties so that every voter, regardless of county residence, should have the same ability to access the polls as any other voter in the state.
  2. Allow registered Independent voters to vote in the Presidential Preference Election in future years. State law limits voter participation in the Presidential Preference Election to voters who have a political party preference indicated on their voter registration record, which excludes independents and voters who chose not to designate a political party preference. We can reverse that policy very easily and open the Presidential Preference Election to all registered voters in Arizona.
  3. The legislature should fully fund a sufficient number of polling locations to meet the demand, as well as providing funding for elections officials to educate the public about important voting regulations, such as the deadlines to register to vote, polling places locations, and information about ID requirements for in-person voting, including in our high schools so that young people will be informed and excited about participating in our democracy. The Arizona Legislature knew that it did not provide sufficient funding for this year’s Presidential Preference Election, but legislationto fix that funding shortfall stalled in the Senate and that left counties scrambling the cover the costs.
  4. Create a five-member panel of retired judges to review state election law changes and elections administration plans against the Voting Rights Act and advise and recommend action in cases where changes might violate the Act and infringe on voters’ rights. This panel could be appointed by both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, to include at least one registered independent. Like many boards and commissions, this panel would have limited staff and a limited scope of authority. It would not have enforcement or law-making capabilities, but it could investigate, report and recommend.
  5. Allow automatic voter registration when residents obtain or update their drivers’ licenses at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Legislationto implement this change was introduced during this legislative session, but it never received a hearing. Oregon and California have already implemented automatic voter registration, and a dozen other states have introduced similar legislation. Oregon is already seeing an increase in the number of registered voters.

See Rep. Clark’s comments at the press conference: VIDEO