An independent investigation found that under the leadership of Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan, 200,000 voters were denied information in a timely manner about propositions 123 and 124 which appeared on ballots during the 2016 Special Election.
Phoenix attorney Michael T. Morrissey prepared the report after Attorney General Mark Brnovich found that Reagan’s office had broken the law. Brnovich refused take action to secure the voters’ right to information by allowing the Special Election to continue.
Arizona law requires that the Secretary of State distribute publicity pamphlets in advance of early voting in certain elections, including elections in which amendments to the Arizona Constitution have been put to the voters.
● Although the Secretary of State produced and mailed publicity pamphlets in advance of the Special Election, as required by Arizona law, approximately 200,000 households did not receive publicity pamphlets by the statutory deadline.
● In January 2016, the Secretary of State’s office began work on the household mailing list for the publicity pamphlet. The publicity pamphlet for the May 2016 Special Election was the first one for Secretary of State Michele Reagan’s administration.
● The Election Services division, directed by Eric Spencer, who joined the office when the Secretary took office in January 2015, was responsible for development and mailing of the publicity pamphlet for the May 2016 Special Election.
● Due to turnover in staff, management of the publicity pamphlets was assigned to employees who had not previously worked on a household mailing list. Primary responsibility was assigned to Janine Petty, the Secretary of State’s Deputy Election Director, with the assistance of Jacob Coats, the office’s Election Technology Analyst, who had been hired in late November 2015.
●Early voting began as scheduled on April 20, 2016, the last date by law for receipt of the pamphlets by voters. On April 22, 2016, with voting already underway, the Secretary of State’s office was notified by the Election Director for Yavapai County that some voters had not received their publicity pamphlets.
●By April 25, 2016, Petty and others within the Secretary of State’s office were advised that the issue was not limited to Yavapai County elections personnel in both Coconino County and Graham County had also noted that they had not received publicity pamphlets.
●From April 22, 2016, forward, the Secretary of State’s office received a steady flow of information from election personnel from multiple counties, advising the Secretary of State that many pamphlets had not arrived.
●Lynn Constabile, Election Director for Yavapai County, first raised the issue in multiple emails on April 22, 2016 with Deputy Election Director Petty, advising Petty that elections staff were “starting to be questioned” because “[no] one here has received one yet.” Petty assured Constabile that the publicity pamphlets had been mailed but noted that she had called the mailing vendor for more information, as she had been told the latest delivery date would be six days earlier, on April 16, 2016.
●Petty initially believed the issue was limited to Yavapai County and asked the printer to determine why certain addresses in Yavapai County had not received pamphlets. By April 25, 2016, however, it was evident that the failure was widespread and not limited to a single county. On that day, Coconino County Recorder Patty Hansen emailed Petty, informing her that “half the people in my office have not received their pamphlets yet” and telling Petty that Hansen had spoken with Constabile about pamphlets not arriving in Yavapai County. Constabile also advised Petty that election officials in Graham and Coconino County had not received pamphlets, but an election official in Mohave County had received a pamphlet.
The Secretary of State’s office delayed disclosure to county election officials and the public regarding the situation for at least several days, during which time ballots were being completed and returned by voters. As a result, voters were denied the opportunity to find information about the propositions elsewhere.
The report found that the failure to deliver enough pamphlets in a timely manner “demonstrates poor or incompetent execution of the task.”