Concerns have been raised in one southern Arizona county that the local elections director is potentially violating the U.S. Constitution and state law by vetting poll worker applicants based on their political ideology and attempting to scare off others by asking several in-depth questions about technology issues.
In Arizona, each of the 15 county board of supervisors must appoint several election (or poll) workers for the upcoming Aug. 2 primary election. Those appointments include one election inspector, one marshal, two judges, and “as clerks of election as deemed necessary” for each election precinct or voting center depending on the process used by a county.
Precinct polling stations have been replaced in Cochise County by 17 voting centers which allow registered voters to cast their ballot in person at any of the centers. And any of those voters who want to perform a civic duty -or simply earn $120 for one day’s work- by serving as poll workers must first pass muster with Elections Director Lisa Marra.
State law applies minimal criteria for poll workers, who are provided training by the county in advance of election day. One requirement is that the worker be a qualified voter in the county. Another requires no change to have been made to the voter’s political party affiliation (or no party preference affiliation) since the last general election.
However, questions are being asked about the process Marra implemented for selecting Cochise County’s poll workers. Specifically, there are concerns she is applying a sort of “political thought” litmus test when reviewing applications.
Among the concerns is a question on Cochise County’s application about the voter’s motivation for wanting to serve as a poll worker. This has caused some consternation given that Marra has posted dozens of negative comments on social media about voters who are concerned fraud influenced the 2020 General Election, particularly the presidential race.
Marra, who is a county employee running elections for the board of supervisors, has also been highly critical about the Senate’s audit into how Maricopa County conducted the 2020 election.
An attorney who specializes in constitutional law told Arizona Daily Independent that having an opportunity to serve as an Election Day worker is essentially a presumptive right, just as it is a right to serve on a jury subject to certain disqualifiers.
“This means Cochise County officials cannot allow a county employee like Ms. Marra to simply establish a “I’ll take them over there but not them over here’ basis for accepting someone as a poll worker who otherwise meets the criteria outlined in state law,” the attorney said.
“Preventing a qualified voter from engaging in this Election Day civic duty because they have exercised their First Amendment right to express political opinions away from a polling station is just about the most unAmerican thing I’ve heard of,” he added.
Arizona Daily Independent has also confirmed that an elections attorney recently visited the Cochise County government complex on a fact-finding mission.
In Arizona, the county chairs of the Democratic, Republican, and Libertarian parties have certain legal rights related to how local elections are conducted. However, Robert Montgomery, the chair of the Cochise County Republican Committee, says Marra has so far refused to provide him with a tentative list of the Republican poll workers under consideration.
Montgomery says Marra told him he could find out the names when they are made public at an upcoming board of supervisors meeting.
Marra may not wish to make the list of tentative of poll workers available at this time, but a public records request has been filed with the Cochise County Attorney’s Office to determine which of Cochise County’s 2020 poll workers have undergone training for the upcoming 2022 Primary Election.
This is of interest because Arizona law requires county boards to “whenever possible” appoint election inspectors at each voting center who have had previous experience as an inspector, judge, marshal or clerk of elections. Any Republicans who worked the 2020 General Election and expressed an interest in serving this year, but who have been dropped from consideration by Marra, could be a sign that discriminatory practices are being used, the attorney noted.
Concerns with Cochise County’s poll worker selection process goes even further, according to some election watchers. They point to the county’s application which includes a series of personal questions about the applicant’s comfort level with technology.
That line of questioning could be seen by a court as an effort to scare off older applicants, especially due to the fact most poll workers need only a low level of technological prowess which the Cochise County website notes is included in the required training course.
Taken together, it raises the specter of a court challenge against the primary election results in Cochise County, according to several interested parties.
Here are two samples of straightforward election (poll) worker applications, one from Santa Cruz County and one Maricopa County.
They do not ask any of the type of subjective questions included in the Cochise County application nor do they survey the applicants about their technological expertise.