Arizona elections to be focus of civil rights commission committee hearing

Joseph Garcia
March 6, 2018

Arizona and Maricopa County have had their share of self-declared “honest mistakes” in recent times when it comes to voting operations, integrity and access:

 • ridiculously long lines at the polls due to the drastically reduced number of precincts in the 2016 presidential preference primary;
 • an incorrect date for Election Day printed on the Spanish version of official voter cards in 2012, (the English one was OK);
 • a county recorder cussing out a Goodyear voter who complained his November 2016 ballot was confusing;
 • 200,000 voter publicity pamphlets failed to be mailed out for the May 2016 special election;
 • the wrong title of a proposition printed on the Spanish version of a mail-in ballot, (the English version was OK);
 • and allegations of improper party registration and incorrect information regarding “provisional ballots” that, despite official assurances to the contrary, were never going to be counted.

The question of when a litany of “honest mistakes” becomes a troubling trend toward possible voter suppression and disenfranchisement of certain populations will be among the chief topics of discussion at the March 9 meeting of the Arizona Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

The public briefing in Phoenix on voting rights and access will feature testimony, presentations and discussions by academics, policy makers, civil society organizations, community groups and other engaged individuals. Of particular interest to the Arizona Committee will be potential barriers to voting that may have a discriminatory impact based on race, color, disability status, national origin, and/or the administration of justice.

Many Arizona leaders will be testifying at the Commission’s briefing, which will take place Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Beus Center for Law and Society, Fifth Floor Conference Center, 111 E. Taylor St., on the Arizona State University Downtown Phoenix Campus. The Committee meeting is free and open to the public.

As director of the Morrison Institute Latino Public Policy Center, and a contributor/collaborator on many Morrison Institute election-related research papers – including “Arizona’s Emerging Latino Vote,” “Who is Arizona’s Independent Voter?” and “Voters, Media & Social Networks” – I’ve been invited to speak about Arizona elections. My focus will be on Arizona’s changing electorate, especially regarding our state’s growing Latino population.

The public also is invited to lend its voice to the discussion, including at the meeting’s public comment session from 4 p.m. to 4:50 p.m. The Committee also will accept written testimony submitted by April 9 to Ana Victoria Fortes, civil rights analyst for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, West Regional Office. Her email is:

“The right to vote is one of America’s most cherished rights and fundamental to our democracy,” Committee Chair Lorena Van Assche said in a written statement. “Our Advisory Committee has made it its priority to investigate whether any barriers to voting exist in Arizona. Our examination will conclude with a report to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to aid in its national review of voting rights.”

Established in 1957, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is an independent, bipartisan federal agency charged with advising the President and Congress on civil rights matters and issuing an annual federal civil rights enforcement report. The Committee will issue its findings recommendations in an advisory memorandum to the Commission, in order to supplement the Commission’s 2018 statutory enforcement report on voting rights.

Livestream of the March 9 event will be available at:

Here is the schedule of panels and panelists for the event:

Voting Rights in Arizona
March 9, 2018 - Phoenix

I. Opening Remarks and Introductions: 9 a.m. – 9:15 a.m.

II. Government and Election Officials: 9:15 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
 • Eric Spencer, Election Director, State of Arizona
 • Patty Hansen, Recorder, Coconino County Recorder’s Office
 • Adrian Fontes, Recorder, Maricopa County Recorder’s Office
 • Lisa Marra, Elections Director, Cochise County

III. Advocacy Organizations: 10:40 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.
 • Walt Opaska, Co-Founder and Member, Arizona Republican Lawyers Association
 • Renaldo Fowler, Senior Staff Advocate, Arizona Center for Disability Law
 • Joel Edman, Executive Director, Arizona Advocacy Network
 • Darrell Hill, Attorney, ACLU of Arizona

IV. Break: Noon – 1:15 p.m.

V. Election and Voting Experts: 1:30 p.m. – 2:50 p.m.
 • Mary O’Grady, Staff Attorney, Osborn Maledon
 • Timothy La Sota, Attorney, Timothy La Sota PLC
 • Travis Lane, Assistant Director and State Director of Native Vote, Inter Tribal Council of Arizona
 • Sarah Gonski, Political Law Associate, Perkins Coie
 • Joseph Garcia, Director, Morrison Institute Latino Public Policy Center, Morrison Institute for Public Policy, Arizona State University

VI. Voter Perspectives: 3 p.m. – 4 p.m.
 • Eric Sainz, Arizona State Director, Mi Familia Vota
 • Robyn Prud'homme-Bauer, Co-President, League of Women Voters
 • Juliana Huereña (co-presenter), Operations Manager, Southwestern Institute for Families and Children
 • John Britton (co-presenter), Member, Southwestern Institute for Families and Children
 • Gina Roberts, Voter Education Director, Arizona Clean Elections Commission

VII. Open Comment Period: 4 p.m. – 4:50 p.m.

VIII. Closing Remarks: 4:50 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Morrison Institute blogs are intended to further public discourse regarding key and timely issues via diverse voices, expertise and experiences – including, when appropriate, in pro-and-con format. Blogs do not represent any official position of Morrison Institute for Public Policy or Arizona State University.