Arizona AG: Secretary of State broke law, but May special election to proceed

May 12, 2016, 12:52 PM | Updated: May 13, 2016, 11:19 am
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (left) said Secretary of State Michele Reagan's office broke...
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (left) said Secretary of State Michele Reagan's office broke the law by failing to mail promotional pamphlets to more than 200,000 households in time for the state's May 17 special election, but statutes gave his office little recourse but to allow it to proceed. (AP Photos)
(AP Photos)

PHOENIX — An Arizona special election will go forward despite the secretary of state’s office illegally failing to mail publicity pamphlets to more than 200,000 households, state Attorney General Mark Brnovich said Thursday.

The attorney general did not pull any punches and said his office was launching an inquiry into the latest voting debacle in Arizona.

“We do believe the secretary of state did violate Arizona law,” he told media. “Unfortunately, there is nothing in the statutes to provide an adequate remedy.”

Brnovich said Secretary of State Michele Reagan’s office has admitted it violated the law by not mailing pamphlets to more than 200,000 households with multiple voters, but a state law gave his office little recourse to correct the error with just one week to the election.

“We’ve got to get this stuff right,” he said. “I cannot tell you how disappointed and frustrated that I am that, basically, tenets of our law are not being followed by other public officials.”

Chandler attorney Tom Ryan asked Brnovich’s office to reset the special election but the attorney general said it was too late.

“We determined that (canceling the election) wasn’t the best course,” he said. “That would ultimately lead to disenfranchising more voters and create more confusion.”

The ballots were supposed to reach voters 10 days prior to April 20, the start of early voting. Reagan spokesman Matt Roberts blamed a private vendor for the ballots not being received until 11 days prior to the special election.

Roberts didn’t say why the public wasn’t notified when the problem was discovered more than two weeks ago.

“When did the secretary of state know about this and why did it take weeks in order to inform the public or a complaint from Mr. Ryan to get this information forward?” Brnovich asked.

Brnovich said he is tired of repeatedly watching officials drop the ball each election year.

In the March presidential preferential election, voters waited hours to cast ballots in Maricopa County after the number of polling places was drastically reduced.

“It’s incredible that we just can’t get these things right,” Brnovich said.

Brnovich said his office will look into both voting complications and possibly changing statutes that would hold officials accountable and offer remedies should an issue arise.

“Whether it’s a statutory change, or if there’s any other violations of law which we don’t know about, we need to get to the bottom of those violations,” he said.

Brnovich said, without remedies, he is concerned the federal government may step in and run the state’s elections.

“I will work with anyone, any party, anywhere to make sure we stop having these fiascoes when it comes to our elections,” he said.

Brnovich said issues with Arizona’s voting system could eventually disenfranchise those who want to participate in government.

“It is a fundamental precept that one of the reasons people have confidence in our Republican-Democratic form of government is that they need to know elections are being done legally, fairly and competently,” he said.

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Arizona AG: Secretary of State broke law, but May special election to proceed