Political adversaries came together on Wednesday to successfully advocate for the passage of a transformative election integrity bill, which will bring a much needed dose of transparency to the election process. Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes and Arizona State Senator Ken Bennett addressed the members of the Municipal Oversight and Elections Committee in support of the bill, sponsored by Speaker of the House Ben Toma.
The bill, HB 2560, “requires county recorder to provide, and the secretary of state to post, specified election information including: a list of persons who voted in the election, all ballot images used to tabulate the election results and the cast vote record.”
Sen. Bennett, who served for six years as Arizona’s secretary of state, is running a “mirror bill” in the Senate but stood in for Speaker Toma during Wednesday’s proceedings.
The bill is the brainchild of AUDIT Elections USA, a nonpartisan, nonprofit public interest organization based in Arizona.
While the bill offers rigorous voter privacy protections, supporters believe it will restore confidence in our elections due to the fact that it allows the public to compare election results with the actual ballots tabulated.
Ballot images are a picture of every ballot cast in an election. The images are completely anonymous because ballots are anonymous once they leave a voter’s hands, so the images do not reveal the identity of voters who cast them. The images are an invaluable tool for verifying election results and can be sorted by candidate, by precinct, by overvotes or undervotes, and in a variety of other ways. While Maricopa County is preventing public access to ballot images, other places such as San Francisco, one of the largest voting jurisdictions in the United States, posts all its ballot images online for the public to be able to view.
“I always thought that by introducing a bill that’s been part of the Democratic Party platform since 2010 we would attract bipartisan support. We did. Top Democratic lawyers, activists, and elected officials from around the state showed up to testify in support of the bill,” said Rep. Alex Kolodin, vice-chair of the Municipal Oversight and Elections Committee. “While I am disappointed that my Democratic colleagues could not see their way to a “yes” vote quite yet, I never give up hope.”
“We are encouraged to have such amazing support for HB2560 from our Democratic Secretary of State, Adrian Fontes, and from former Republican Secretary of State and current state Senator, Ken Bennett, along with additional nonpartisan support from many Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, independents, and the Maricopa County Recorder’s office,” said John Brakey, director and co-founder of AUDIT Elections USA. “The twin bill in the State Senate, SB1324, is sponsored by Senator Bennett, who co-authored the bill, and has Democratic and Republican co-sponsors. This is a bill for “we the people” — for everyone to be able to verify election results for themselves. If this legislation passes, and we’re quite confident that it will, it will increase voter confidence in election results and will be a model for the entire country.”
Audit USA won an important legal victory in 2016 with its lawsuit to require all Arizona counties to retain ballot images for 22 months after every election. As a result of AUDIT’s court case, all Arizona counties now preserve ballot images. Following this court decision, the Arizona legislature passed a law, § 16-625, to protect the original ballot image files from unauthorized access.