The right to vote is the most fundamental right in a democracy. Election policies can mean the difference between having that right and not. While many voting rights battles take place at the state legislature, elections officials across the state routinely make decisions that can fundamentally affect the right to vote.
The Secretary of State exercises considerable policymaking through an Elections Procedures Manual, the "how to" guide for local elections officials on everything from voter registration to provisional ballot procedures. Arizona's fifteen counties establish many of the basic rules governing when and where voters can vote, including choosing between precinct-based polling locations and countywide vote centers (the latter dramatically reduces the number of provisional ballots that will not be counted), and determining the number and location of in-person early voting locations.
These decisions are often made under the lowest levels of public scrutiny. That's how the debacle of the March 2016 presidential election was possible. In response, we helped create the Arizona Commission for Election Accountability, a group of non-partisan organizations invested in encouraging citizen participation in our democracy, to engage in these conversations.
With the 2016 election featuring close races from the presidential level to key state and local offices, protecting the vote on Election Day was as important as ever. Arizona Advocacy Network Foundation rose to the challenge, organizing one of the largest Election Protection programs ever conducted in the state.
We recruited and trained 200 volunteers to observe voting in Maricopa and Pima Counties. Those observers helped to identify and correct systemic issues with voting machines and the improper use of provisional ballots. Our voter hotline team of 20+ attorneys advised hundreds of voters on how to protect their right to vote.