Arizona Senate bill would require ‘election integrity audits’

Feb 22, 2022, 4:45 AM

(File Photo by Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images)...

(File Photo by Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images)

(File Photo by Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — A Republican-backed bill advancing in the state Legislature would call on the auditor general’s office to audit Arizona’s elections.

Senate Bill 1629 would require the office to create a team that would conduct “election integrity audits” of county recorders’ offices and election departments. It currently has 12 Republican co-sponsors.

The bill passed the GOP-controlled Senate Government Committee in a 4-3 vote along party lines last week.

Maricopa and Pima counties under the bill would have to be audited every election cycle, in addition to two other counties randomly selected.

The audits would focus on four key areas: voter registration, signature verification, tabulation of ballots and polling place administration.

“Auditing other state agencies or any agency is a government function and there’s nothing more precious than our election system, ” Sen. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, the bill’s sponsor, said during the Senate Government committee hearing on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Democrats on the committee raised questions about how this would affect the auditor general’s other work and if the office had the required staff and expertise to carry out the audits.

Auditor General Lindsey Perry admitted to committee members that this would be a big undertaking for her office.

“This is a significant amount of work that will require my office to conduct year-round continuous election integrity work, and therefore, the office would need to quickly mobilize,” she said.

The office would need to create a division, which would become the third-largest, and would include 35 full-time employees.

“I would need to identify experienced auditors from other audit areas in my office and reassign them to this new division,” Perry said.

As a result, some audits would have to be reassigned to state agencies for self-review and audits of school districts would have to be postponed.

The auditors assigned to the new division would also have to be trained since Perry said her office has “no experience or expertise in elections laws or processes.”

She added her office would need to hire more auditors to backfill those she would be reassigning to the new division, which won’t be easy given that her office is having “significant difficulties in recruiting and retaining competent staff.”

Despite the challenges, Perry expressed confidence that her office would be able to carry out the new duties.

Still, Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, said he felt lawmakers were setting up the Auditor General’s Office to fail with this bill. He also worried it would be difficult to find qualified individuals to conduct the election audits since it’s not typically the work the office does.

“An election audit is very different than an audit of a state agency,” Quezada said. “An election audit is very different than an audit of a school district.

“Those are two completely different types of skill sets, and she doesn’t have that expertise in her office right now,” he continued. “It’s going to require movement. It’s going to require major re-shifting of her office.”

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Arizona Senate bill would require ‘election integrity audits’