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The Daily Wildcat

 

Gov. Hobbs task force looks to improve Arizona election safety

People+wait+in+line+to+vote+for+an+Arizona+midterm+election+at+the+First+Methodist+Church+polling+station+in+Tucson+on+Nov.+8%2C+2022.+Many+University+of+Arizona+students+chose+to+vote+here+due+to+the+close+proximity+to+campus.
Kate Ewing
People wait in line to vote for an Arizona midterm election at the First Methodist Church polling station in Tucson on Nov. 8, 2022. Many University of Arizona students chose to vote here due to the close proximity to campus.

A task force led by Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs spent the last weeks of October proposing legislation to identify issues and improve the safety and security of elections in Arizona.

Voter intimidation in Arizona has long been a pressing issue, receiving recent attention in the 2022 election. In 2022, Maricopa County reported possible instances of voter intimidation, including people recording or photographing people attempting to cast votes at election sites.

As a result of the voter intimidation found in Maricopa County, members of the League of Women Voters of Arizona issued a lawsuit against Clean Elections USA.

The group formerly known as Clean Elections USA had encouraged citizens to monitor polling booths during the 2022 election, mainly due to fears of illegal voting, tampering or certain parties’ votes not being counted. The lawsuit was settled in May, with both parties agreeing “to a settlement that will ensure voters can safely cast their votes at ballot drop boxes without intimidation,” according to the LWV.

As the country prepares for the 2024 presidential election, Hobbs and her task force are working on implementing changes in legislation that will protect voters at election sites, regardless of whether they are returning mail-in votes or voting in person.

Maricopa County has faced the brunt of voter intimidation issues in Arizona in recent years. However, this task force and community members want to know the state of voter suppression and intimidation in Pima County.

Elections Deputy Director for Pima County Jeremy George works with poll workers across the county. During election cycles, he works at the election office and can take direct calls from poll workers when needed.

In George’s own experience, Pima County has not experienced any of the incidents described and has not faced similar issues as Maricopa. However, the poll workers at election sites located within Pima County are trained to deal with problems should they arise.

“We obviously heard about some of the instances in Maricopa. And so we’re aware of it, and we do several things with our poll workers to train them to be on the lookout for some of these things,” George said.

Poll workers are also briefed on how to deal with people who may be upset or wary about how an election is being conducted.

“I guess we emphasize to them the importance of, when you’re dealing with someone who’s a little bit upset, how to address it calmly. Listen to the person’s concerns,” George said.

He mentioned Pima County poll workers have noted a more tense atmosphere, with some voters being more easily upset than in the past. However, he said, this has not resulted in significant problems like those in Maricopa.

Regardless, he agrees legislation such as what the Hobbs task force is working on is a move in the right direction, depending on what it turns into.

“Nobody should ever feel intimidated or threatened or should have to hesitate at all, George said. “Anything that would lessen that, or, you know, give a voter more confidence and make sure they don’t have anything to worry about when they go vote would be a good thing.”

George emphasized that if voters are ever at a voting center or election site and feel threatened or unsafe, it is important to immediately call the police. A hotline is always available to the Pima County Elections Department at voting sites, where he or someone else will be waiting to help.

As we turn towards the 2024 presidential election cycle, George hopes Pima County will continue to be a place where people can feel safe and confident in exercising their right to vote.


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