Building on a year’s worth of momentum, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors just took an important step to restore our statutory responsibilities related to elections.
These responsibilities were given to the recorder’s office as part of a charter that dates back to 1955 and hasn’t been amended since 1985. Clearly, our region is much different than it was back then. Rather than have one, partisan elected official responsible for overseeing all election activities, Maricopa County should align its operations with what is written in state law.
You may not realize this, but under state statute, county recorders in Arizona are given responsibility for several activities leading up to Election Day including voter registration and early voting. State law gives Boards of Supervisors responsibility for much of what happens on Election Day, including the location and number of polling places, the equipment to count votes, and the training and assigning of poll workers.
Under the decades-old charter between the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office, the elections director is hired by and reports directly to the recorder. This effectively limits the board’s role in the process to one of budget oversight. I’ve wanted to change this for years.
With my chairmanship in 2018, the board began to take a more active role. We sent our internal auditors into the elections department to look at processes. We hired outside consultants to show us the gaps that were preventing the county from delivering best-in-class elections. And we fast-tracked discussions that had been long overdue about amending the charter in a way that would allow the board more oversight while also respecting the clear line drawn by state law, which gives certain responsibilities to the elected recorder.
Today, my colleagues and I adopted the following:
• Maricopa County will acquire new vote tabulation machines that protect the integrity and security of each vote while also allowing us to count ballots more quickly. Funding for this technology is part of the county’s fiscal year 2020 budget.
• The county will complete a staffing analysis to guide the board’s funding and recruitment of personnel required to support a successful election. Funding for 26 positions is reserved in the FY 2020 budget.
• The board has hired a “point person” inside the elections department. This director will have oversight of the assigned statutory responsibilities of the board and report directly to the board (one of only four positions countywide to do so). We designed it that way on purpose so that we are aware of every decision affecting our side of the elections house.
• The board will execute election day statutory activities. These activities include poll worker training and chain of custody of tabulation equipment and ballots.
This is about moving away from the past — from old technology and a decades-old charter to running elections in a way befitting the Maricopa County of tomorrow. We’re the fourth-largest county in America. People expect us to get it right. These changes are designed to ensure we have the proper checks and balances to serve all voters in 2020 and beyond.
In the meantime, know that our eye is on the ball. We are focused on successful elections in 2020.
With this newly amended agreement that allows for collaboration with the recorder’s office, we are better equipped for a successful election in 2020.