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Arizona Officials At Odds Over Potential Voting Changes For Some Populations

Published: Wednesday, September 23, 2020 - 11:47am
Updated: Thursday, September 24, 2020 - 10:04am
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MARK BRODIE: As the November election nears and the COVID pandemic continues, there are questions about how some vulnerable populations will be able to cast their ballots. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs has made moves she says will ensure all who are eligible to vote in November can do so. That includes providing voter assistance to those who might need help. This particularly affects those in long-term care facilities. One of the changes Hobbs's office put out is the use of video conferencing technology. This would come into play to assist individuals when face-to-face visitation is not allowed. But some county recorders and Gov. Doug Ducey have expressed concerns about those changes, and the governor has asked Hobbs to suspend the changes immediately. Here to tell us more is Alex Gulotta, the director of All Voting Is Local in Arizona, which supports the changes. Alex, good morning.

ALEX GULOTTA: Good morning. How are you?

BRODIE: Doing all right. So tell us about why you think these changes that the secretary of state has put into place are a good idea?

GULOTTA: Well, I think that there are a number of vulnerable populations that are having difficulty accessing the right to vote because of the pandemic. And we're doing everything we can, and the secretary of state is doing everything they can to make sure that those people actually are able to have their voices heard in spite of the pandemic. And so the two things that the governor's office and the secretary of state are back and forth on are one, an issue we worked on, which is allowing people who may not be able to get a voter registration form in on time to be able to start the process by calling the secretary of state's office Especially for people, for example, with tribal IDs, our current online voter registration system — my opinion, it's probably unconstitutional because it excludes so many people. Unless you have an Arizona driver's license or an Arizona ID, you can't register to vote online. And maybe that wasn't as critical before COVID, but it is now. And there are lots of people who have historically relied on in-person voter registration, tabling at the flea market or in the grocery store or participation at community events. And those things aren't happening. And there's no door-to-door canvasing. And as a result of that, the online portal is critical, and there are lots of people who can't access it. And the secretary of state has made some changes to basically allow people who don't have non-traditional addresses to be able to use the online portal. But they also created a process where individuals who didn't have access to a form and couldn't get a form back on time would be in a position to at least call and start the process and then complete the process once they got the form from the secretary of state. And so we think these are great steps forward and they're really important given the pandemic.

BRODIE: Well, Alex, let me ask you about the special election boards where folks can go into, for example, a care facility or nursing home, something like that. The secretary has authorized the use of video teleconferencing for some of those facilities where in-person visitation is not allowed or a patient, a resident doesn't feel comfortable having somebody come in or they don't have a caregiver who can do it. The governor says that violates the law. That that's not legally allowed. I mean, how is that allowed to be happening?

GULOTTA: Yeah, I'm really surprised they're taking that position. The governor's office, I believe, worked with the secretary of state's office to actually set up that process. They knew that the process existed. I think they may be just getting bad legal advice, to be quite frank. We are currently in the middle of a pandemic. ... Does the governor really want to take the position that people who are in medical isolation don't get to vote? Because that's essentially what the governor is saying. And special election boards are used when people are unable to come to the polls. And if the special election board goes to the hospital and then has to connect with someone remotely — just like telemedicine or something else — the governor is going to take the position, "We're not going to let people who are in medical isolation because of COVID vote." That's just outrageous. And for the governor to say, "I don't have any power to do anything about that," I think is wrong. I think the governor has that power and has exercised that power in a number of different ways, in a number of different areas, and should exercise that power here. And if the governor really doesn't have that power, then he should call the legislature back into session to fix it, OK? I don't believe he doesn't have the power. I think he does have the power. But if he doesn't have the power, he should call the legislature back into session to fix that problem, because I don't think any of us want to take the position that people who are in medical isolation because of COVID don't have a right to vote.

BRODIE: All right. We'll unfortunately have to leave it right there. That is Alex Gulotta, director of All Voting Is Local in Arizona. Alex, thank you.

GULOTTA: Thank you. Appreciate it. 

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