We understand the issue raised by Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, but we object to the timing and question whether it's self-serving.
Ms. Hobbs is the leading candidate to represent Democrats in the 2022 race for Arizona governor. She announced her intention to run June 2 and is currently serving her first term at the state’s top election official.
Last week she announced a change to the Election Procedures Manual, the authoritative guidebook published by the Secretary of State’s office for county officials. That policy change would count votes for state and federal offices, even if the person casting the ballot shows up at the wrong precinct.
Currently, voters who cast a ballot in the wrong precinct are issued a “provisional ballot.” After other ballots are counted, county election officials go through their records to see if that person was entitled to vote at that precinct. If not, the ballot is not counted — even if their vote is for a state or federal race that also is on the ballot of where he or she should have gone in the first place.
Secretary Hobbs believes these ballots should be counted, and her revision to the procedures manual includes language to include these votes.
State Republicans are up in arms.
The secretary’s policy change directly conflicts with a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court issued about three months ago that did not object to Arizona’s practice of throwing out provisional ballots cast at the wrong precinct.
Though this revision is a clear attempt to circumvent Arizona law, we share Ms. Hobbs' belief that votes for state and federal offices should be counted, regardless of where they were cast. Voters who make the effort to come out for an election, if they are voting for an office that is on all statewide ballots, should not lose their right to participate for their failure to abide by the bureaucratic regulation of precinct boundaries.
On the other hand ...
It’s too convenient that Ms. Hobbs has made this revision for an election in which she is running for governor. If we go along with the frequent allegation made by Democrats that discounting provisional ballots cast at the wrong precinct discriminates against minorities; and that a majority of those ethnic minorities vote for Democrats, then it becomes clear that this rule change will benefit the Hobbs campaign.
She is serving her own interests by revising the procedure manual for the 2022 election.
Cochise County is not directly affected by this political squabble between state Republicans and Democrats. We switched our elections to “vote centers” with the advent of new equipment in 2014 and voters registered in this corner of Arizona can show up at any one of the 17 locations and cast a ballot. Election workers print out a personalized ballot on the spot when you check in, with all the state, federal and local elections where you live.
This dispute centers on the five counties in Arizona that continue to operate elections with “precinct-based” voting, requiring registered voters to show up at a specific location to cast their ballots.
If Secretary Hobbs is sincerely interested in making sure voters are not disenfranchised, then she should hold off on implementing this policy change until it does not represent a self-serving decision.