Secretary of State: Special election won't be canceled

Matt Roberts, Tom Ryan

Matt Roberts, Tom Ryan

PHOENIX - Secretary of State Michele Reagan won't cancel next week's special election even though her office failed to mail, on time, more than 200,000 pamphlets with details of what's on the ballot.

Reagan spokesman Matt Roberts conceded the law about when voters need to get the brochures was broken. And while saying the fault lies with an outside company that made up mailing lists, Roberts acknowledged the foul-up is Reagan's responsibility.

But Roberts rejected the contention by attorney Tom Ryan that her failure is fatal and the election for Propositions 123 and 124 cannot take place as scheduled this coming Tuesday.

"There's nothing in statute that we're finding that would allow this office to not allow the election itself to move forward," Robert said.

Ryan is not relying on Reagan to act. He separately filed a complaint with Attorney General Mark Brnovich contending that Reagan's failure to strictly comply with election laws - including the deadline for mailing the pamphlets - voids the entire vote. He wants Brnovich to order the election postponed, putting the two issues either on the Aug. 30 primary ballot or holding it until the Nov. 8 general election.

There was no immediate comment from Brnovich.

The facts are not in dispute.

Arizona law requires Reagan to mail a copy of the publicity pamphlet to every household with a registered voter. It also says they have to be mailed out in time to be delivered before voters get their early ballots.

That would have required the pamphlets to be in homes by April 20.

The pamphlets are considered important because they contain an explanation of the ballot measures. In this case, that includes Proposition 123 (to tap state trust land proceeds to settle a lawsuit against the state by schools) and Proposition 124 (which allows the state to make changes to cost-of-living increases in the pensions of police and firefighters).

That pamphlet also contains arguments submitted by supporters and opponents of ballot measures.

Roberts said about 200,000 of the 1.9 million pamphlets did not go out on time, largely to houses with multiple registered voters who get early ballots. That affects up to 400,000 would-be voters.

"We have identified the problem," he said Tuesday. "We have alleviated some of those concerns by sending out the extra 200,000 publicity pamphlets."

Ryan acknowledged he is a foe of Proposition 123, echoing the comments of Treasurer Jeff DeWit that the state has enough money to settle the lawsuit and increase aid to schools without tapping the trust account. But he denied that's why he is trying to delay the vote, pointing out that also would affect Proposition 124, which he does support.

Just delaying the election, though, would have fiscal implications for schools.

Lawmakers scheduled the special election May 17 to have election results before the budget year ends on June 30. If the measure is approved, schools would get an immediate $224 million infusion.

But Ryan said supporters of the measure should not be upset with him for raising the issue.

"It should be with the secretary of state's office who failed in her basic duty to make sure an election is properly processed," he said.

Ryan's bid to delay the election is being opposed by the organizers of Prop 124.

"The intent of a May election was to get money into classrooms at the earliest possible moment," J.P. Twist, the group's campaign manager, said in a prepared statement. "Any delay just results in our schools being underfunded longer."

And Twist said more than half a million votes already have been cast by mail.

Ryan conceded the point, but said the votes should be discarded.