Not a crime but an er­ror

The Arizona Republic - - Valley & State - Lau­rie Roberts Colum­nist Ari­zona Re­pub­lic USA TO­DAY NET­WORK

First, the good news for Sec­re­tary of State Michele Rea­gan.

She and her staff didn’t com­mit any crimes dur­ing last year’s spe­cial elec­tion on Propo­si­tion 123, when they de­prived hun­dreds of thou­sands of vot­ers of in­for­ma­tion about the pro­posal. They were just flat out in­com­pe­tent. “The fail­ure by the Sec­re­tary of State and her staff to re­spond to a sys­temic prob­lem with a statewide re­sponse, de­spite the tools to do so, un­duly de­layed dis­clos­ing im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion to the vot­ers,” wrote at­tor­ney Michael T. Mor­ris­sey, who in­ves­ti­gated the mat­ter after a com­plaint was filed with the At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s Of­fice.

You may re­call the Great Pub­lic­ity Pam­phlet Foul-up of 2016 — the one that may have changed the out­come of Gov. Doug Ducey’s school fund­ing pro­posal.

By law, vot­ers had to get the book­let by April 20, 2016, giv­ing them nearly a month be­fore the May 17 elec­tion to study an anal­y­sis of the pro­posal and the pro and con ar­gu­ments.

By April 22, Rea­gan’s of­fice be­gan get­ting calls about miss­ing book­lets and by April 25, state elec­tions of­fi­cials knew the prob­lem was wide­spread.

By April 27, they re­al­ized they hadn’t sent early bal­lots to 200,000 house­holds on the early vot­ing list — roughly 400,000 vot­ers. Yet they didn’t an­nounce the foul-up or tell vot­ers where they could go to get the book­let.

In fact, Rea­gan had not a clue what was go­ing on un­til May 6, when she heard about it on Na­tional Pub­lic Ra­dio. Three days later, she got a brief­ing. This, 19 days after her elec­tions staff knew it had a big prob­lem.

Rea­gan’s re­sponse, the re­port says, was to wait two more days and then send “in­ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion to county elec­tion of­fi­cials,” blam­ing a ven­dor for the screw-up.

“In blam­ing IBM, Sec­re­tary Rea­gan failed to ac­knowl­edge that her staff, not IBM, was re­spon­si­ble for and had pro­duced the house­hold mail­ing list,” the re­port said.

In early May, Rea­gan’s of­fice fi­nally mailed pub­lic­ity pam­phlets to the 200,000 missed house­holds but by then many al­ready had voted.

This, in an elec­tion that was de­cided by 20,000 vot­ers.

Rea­gan’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the in­ci­dent “in­ac­cu­rately as­serted that the fault of the vi­o­la­tion of the law lay with the sec­re­tary’s ven­dors and was the re­sult of ‘a com­puter pro­gram­ming er­ror that the Sec­re­tary of State was un­able to ei­ther pre­vent or de­tect’ and as­sert­ing that the SOS ‘acted promptly’ upon learn­ing of the er­ror.”

If by promptly, they meant after peo­ple had al­ready voted, then yeah.

Rea­gan last week ac­knowl­edged that her of­fice was re­spon­si­ble.

“While pro­fess­ing ac­count­abil­ity, how­ever,” the re­port notes, “Sec­re­tary Rea­gan de­clined Elec­tion Di­rec­tor Spencer’s of­fer to re­sign in the after­math of the Spe­cial Elec­tion and no staff mem­ber was dis­ci­plined.”

By ac­count­able, per­haps she meant next year, when she’s up for re-elec­tion?

This one’s go­ing to leave a mark.

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