On March 22, 2016, Arizona held their state primary. The fall-out from the debacle of extremely long lines, the low number of polling places (particularly in Maricopa County), and changes to voter registration information was immediate.
Monday, March 28, the Arizona House Elections Committee, chaired by Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, held a public hearing to get to the bottom of why the primary was in such disarray.
Arizona Secretary of State Michelle Reagan was questioned by an off-camera member of the committee. The member asked if people were being disenfranchised because their registration status was changed. He said he has heard anecdotal evidence of disenfranchisement on both sides and said they were there to get “absolute clarity” on what happened March 22 during the primary.
Reagan said, “It’s not hearsay, it happened to someone in my own office. One of my employees was registered as a particular party, went to go vote, and I don’t want to divulge his personal details, but, and it happened to him. So, we know it happened.” People in the audience can be heard off camera shouting out after this exchange.
Reagan went on to say that the entire elections team spent several days prior to the hearing cross checking paper voter registration forms to try to see which files they believe were possibly affected. Reagan said they did not have a complete report to give to the committee.
Reagan said, “What’s most important right now to our office, and to the county recorders, is making sure that the people who cast provisional ballots, or had to cast provisional ballots, that those are among the first ones that are being cross-checked. Because if those are votes that should count, they need to be counted. So, that is our priority right now.”
From off camera the audience could be heard clapping at Reagan’s comments.
The hearing lasted for well over 3 hours.
Ugenti-Rita started off by making a statement that the primary on March 22 was a “debacle” and that the first part of the hearing was designed to figure out what happened. She went on to say the second part of the hearing would be to hear from the public to “get an understanding of their experiences.”
Ugenti-Rita introduced Helen Purcell, the Maricopa County Recorder. as the first speaker. Purcell got up to the podium and made an apology to the public and the committee and took responsibility. Purcell said, “I am deeply sorry. It was my responsibility to put this election on in Maricopa County and we obviously made some mistakes.”
Purcell then introduced Jen Marson, Executive Director of the Arizona Association of Counties, to present a slide presentation. She said that provisional ballots are still being counted. Marson said turnout for the primary was on par with both 2008 and 2012. Marson said, “In 14 of our counties, we did not have this issue, it was a significant problem and it was a significant problem in Maricopa County, but I don’t want anyone to think this was a state-wide issue, it was Maricopa County specific.”
Marson went on to say, “we know what the problem was, we know how to fix it, and we are prepared to fix it moving forward.”
The testimony of Purcell and Marson went on for over an hour. You can see the full testimony below.
Please see our original report on the Arizona Primary here.