County leaders call upon lawmakers to fix elections calendar issue that could throw race into ‘chaos’

Feb 1, 2024, 5:00 PM

elections calendar issue...

If lawmakers don't change Arizona's election, the votes of servicemembers in the state may not count in the presidential race, officials said. (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

(Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Arizona’s 15 counties called upon state lawmakers on Thursday to solve an elections calendar issue that they believe could throw the U.S. presidential race into “chaos.”

The Arizona Association of Counties (AAC) sent its request through an open letter to the Arizona State Senate and Gov. Katie Hobbs. AAC’s letter said emergency legislation is required to ensure Arizona can certify the general election in time.

The votes of military voters are on the line, according to AAC. The organization called for legislation to change key dates related to the upcoming presidential election. Without it, Arizonan military votes for president may not be counted in the electoral college, AAC’s letter said.

What do Arizona election officials want?

Jen Marson, executive director of the Arizona Association of Counties, said a “clean” bill is necessary. She is worried lawmakers will shove unrelated policy changes into a bill that should fix this issue alone.

To ensure swift action is taken, a simple and to-the-point bill is necessary, she said.

“An issue this significant deserves to be handled separately so that it can pass with bipartisan support and be signed into law this time,” Marson said in a statement. “We need a clean solution to this problem no later than Feb. 9 to protect the votes of overseas military families, comply with federal law and ensure Arizona’s electors for president count.”

What’s the solution to Arizona’s current elections calendar issue?

Part of the timing issue comes from a 2022 law that made it easier to trigger an automatic recount in close election races. Although recounts can be important, in this case they’re a potential threat to getting votes counted on time, AAC said.

For example, an automatic recount may trigger if the 2024 presidential race in Arizona is close. However, the current election calendar doesn’t account for delays recounts can cause.

Therefore, a recount could halt Arizona’s final votes from going to Congress, and thus the Electoral College, in time.

“We need to find 19 additional days for the primary election and 17 additional days for the general election so that any required recounts can be conducted,” Marson said.

She said lawmakers haven’t presented any alternate solution to the issue.

AAC’s letter said a legislative solution must be approved by next week. If not, it is “highly likely” Arizona will miss two federally mandated deadlines this year, it said:

– The Sept. 21, 2024, deadline to mail ballots to deployed military members and their families.
– The Dec. 11, 2024 electoral certification deadline that makes sure Arizona votes count in the presidential race.

“It’s time for everyone to get serious and pass a signable solution that is a win for Arizona’s voters,” Marson said.

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County leaders call upon lawmakers to fix elections calendar issue that could throw race into ‘chaos’