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Arizona Bipartisan Elections Task Force delivers final report as general election approaches in 2024

photo of Bipartisan Elections Task Force member
Part of the 18-member Bipartisan Elections Task Force is Ben Lane, Scottsdale city clerk, who is pictured above. (Photo: Arianna Grainey/DigitalFreePress)
1ON1 with Scottsdale City Clerk Ben Lane on the Bipartisan Elections Task Force
By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press

The Arizona Bipartisan Elections Task Force has delivered its final report.

On the heels of American Rescue Plan funding being announced, Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs earlier this year announced several measures to improve the election process in the Grand Canyon State — one of which was the formation of a Bipartisan Elections Task Force comprised of election experts at the local, regional and statewide levels.

Gov. Hobbs issued an executive order to create the framework for the 18-member Bipartisan Elections Task Force whereas the task force focused on these key areas:

  • Election administration
  • Voter registration
  • Early voting
  • Election Day and post-election procedures
  • Election equipment and security

The Bipartisan Elections Task Force has made 16 formal recommendations as the 2024 general election — one that will see the station of American president decided — approaches about 12 months away.

“As secretary of state I oversaw the most secure elections in Arizona history, but I know we must continue to improve Arizona’s elections ahead of 2024,” said Gov. Hobbs in a prepared statement. “Election officials and voters are facing new challenges when it comes to administering elections and participating in our democracy. I am thrilled to immediately address some of the problems identified by the Bipartisan Elections Task Force to ensure Arizona voters can make their voices heard.”

Part of the 18-member Bipartisan Elections Task Force is Ben Lane, Scottsdale city clerk.

“The task force recommended 16 proposals covering a variety of topics related to voter registration, early voting, election administration, election day and post-election procedures, and election equipment and security. I believe all 16 recommendations would help make Arizona’s election processes stronger,” he told the Arizona Digital Free Press.

“The task force was represented by election administration and security experts, voting rights advocates, and current and former officials from differing political parties. Additionally, these individuals represented small, medium, and large jurisdictions and populations.”

Gov. Hobbs served as chair of the task force and brought in local elections professional to better understand the myriad pieces to running a local election, Mr. Lane pointed out.

“I appreciated that Gov. Hobbs included several representatives with a focus or understanding of local elections. I enjoyed getting a better understanding of the issues facing different election officials, jurisdictions, and groups. It was also great to meet and develop new or improved working relationships with election officials from across Arizona. The Task Force had five working groups to focus on specific election areas. I had the privilege of chairing the elections administration working group and serving on the Election Day and post-election procedures working group.”

Read the final report — including the 16 recommendations — for yourself, HERE.

1ON1 with Scottsdale City Clerk Ben Lane on the Arizona Bipartisan Elections Task Force

The Arizona Digital Free Press sat down with Mr. Lane to better understand the task force process and aspirations of the final report. This is what he had to say:

*How will these recommendations improve the state’s election system?

I think the 16 recommendations were practicable, well-reasoned, and should garner bipartisan support. Arizona has a strong election system in place and these recommendations will further improve this system by:

  • addressing issues related to the recruitment and retention of permanent and temporary election workers;
  • addressing concerns for voters with disabilities;
  • meeting established cyber and physical security standards;
  • providing additional methods for registering to vote;
  • increasing election-related funding resources;
  • and improving training and guidance to elections officials at all levels of government, including local, county, and state.

*What are the next steps for implementing these recommendations?

Several proposals are already being implemented. Gov. Hobbs announced $2.3 million in American Rescue Plan funding to support elections. Additionally, she issued three executive orders to authorize paid civic duty leave for state employees to serve as poll workers, make state buildings available as polling locations, and require state agencies to provide voter registration information and assistance.

The $2.3 million in ARPA funds will support a variety of election-related measures, including $1 million for a statewide elections fellowship program, as well as temporary staffing support and expert consultants for counties. The funds will also provide $700,000 to maintain the statewide voter registration database.

Additionally, $600,000 will be used for other election administration initiatives, including county-level election security, election security tabletop exercises for state and county officials, ballot reconciliation best practices, resources for county officials to better support voters with disabilities, and poll worker recruitment and emergency poll worker deployment efforts. Additionally, Secretary of State Adrian Fontes, is working on efforts related to a statewide elections fellowship program and implementing ballot reconciliation best practices as part of the Elections Procedures Manual, which is utilized by election officials at all levels of government throughout the state.

Several proposals require legislative change to implement. Several proposals can be implemented administratively by Arizona election officials, such as the secretary of state or county election officials. Some proposals call for further development of standards and best practices.

*What are the potential benefits of implementing these recommendations?

The benefits of implementing these recommendations includes providing additional needed resources and tools, such as:

  • a dedicated funding source for the statewide voter registration database;
  • improved communication tools for use by election officials and poll workers;
  • retention and recruitment of permanent and temporary election workers;
  • an enhanced ‘one stop’ website for voters to find additional information about candidates and ballot measures;
  • enhancements to election security protocols;
  • improvements to the voting process for those individuals with disabilities;
  • helping ensure timely recounts in close contests; and
  • ensuring best practices related to ballot reconciliation are shared statewide.

*Who will be responsible for implementing these recommendations?

Statutory changes would be approved by the Arizona Legislature and the governor’s office and then implemented by the appropriate election officials across the state. The administrative changes would be implemented by entities such as the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office or the Citizens Clean Elections Commission.

*What are the potential risks of not implementing these recommendations?

I believe the resources and tools detailed are much needed. Some recommendations are already being implemented as noted in another previous answer. Not implementing these recommendations may impact election officials at all levels of government for the upcoming 2024 election.

*How will the public be able to track the progress of implementing these recommendations?

The governor’s office issued a press release, which notes progress already made and includes the full task force report. If legislation is considered by the Arizona Legislature next year, interested individuals could track progress through the Arizona Legislature’s website. The secretary of state’s website is another resource.

*What do you think is the most important thing for our readers to understand about this bipartisan election task force at the capitol?

The individuals making up this task force had a diverse set of backgrounds and ideologies, which I believe led to a set of recommendations that will benefit voters and elections in our community and throughout the state. In addition, it provides election officials in Maricopa County and the rest of the state with much needed financial, security, planning, and other resources. In my opinion, Arizona provides many options for individuals to participate in elections, whether it be voting early by mail, voting early in person, or voting in person on Election Day.

The 16 recommendations made by the Task Force improve upon the already strong foundation that Arizona has related to its voting procedures.

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