Not a crime but an error
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.