Arizona Secretary Of State Promotes Mail-In Ballots, Safe In-Person Voting
LAUREN GILGER: Late last week, Gov. Ducey announced an allocation of $9 million to shore up security for the state's election system. The funds are derived from federal coronavirus relief money, and the appropriation subverts a legislative technicality that would have hamstrung the secretary of state's ability to distribute those funds without approval from state lawmakers. Much of these funds will go towards voter outreach in Arizona's rural communities at a time when the COVID pandemic has made going to the polls a potential health risk. And joining us to discuss this effort is Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. Good morning, Secretary Hobbs.
KATIE HOBBS: Good morning.
GILGER: So let's begin with where this election security money will go. What's it going to be used for in terms of COVID precautions, election security from outside meddlers?
HOBBS: Yes. So this is not specifically election security money. It's election money specifically related to COVID-19 related costs. So I just want to clarify that distinction there. But what we are planning to use it for, five million of this $5 million will go directly to the counties in grants. And then we have purchased a number of supplies statewide to distribute to the counties. This includes hand sanitizer, cleaner, face masks, face shields, gloves, pens. We are encouraging voters to bring their own pens to the polls, but we'll have extra single use pens, things like that. And then a large portion will also be used to do public education to help voters know what all of their options are for voting. Of course, voting by mail and then having a plan if they do decide to go to the polls to make sure that it's the safest plan possible for them when they cast their ballot.
STEVE GOLDSTEIN: Secretary, how vital is this when we consider we're still not sure where — Arizona, of course, has had mail-in voting for a number of years, but there is still that fight at the federal level, and how many people are going to want to actually still go to the polls or not. Is this an important message to send in some ways that if you decide to actually go to the poll, it should be a little bit safer, we hope?
HOBBS: Yes, we are doing everything we can to ensure that our polling places are as safe as possible and that we're following all the recommended guidelines in terms of distancing and personal protection and things like that. But of course, a large part of what we're doing is encouraging folks to vote by mail. And so, a lot of those public education dollars are reminding the public how safe and secure voting by mail is. As you know, we are hearing a lot of rhetoric locally and nationally to the contrary of that.
GILGER: I want to ask you before we let you go, Secretary Hobbs, about another story you were in the news for over the weekend. You're asking the U.S. Supreme Court to ignore the attorney general's request to argue for the state's ban on 'ballot harvesting.' The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals supported a ruling that a 2016 state legislature's law was installed to sort of discourage minority voting. Was this a surprise to you that the A.G. was going after this ruling?
HOBBS: No, it wasn't a surprise at all, we knew that this was going to happen. And, you know, I was in the legislature when this law passed, and we made those arguments at the time that this would disproportionately impact minority communities. The 9th Circuit found that in part of their findings. And so we think it's that's an important part of the ruling.
GOLDSTEIN: Secretary Hobbs, a quick follow up — I'm sorry, Lauren — a quick follow up on that.
GILGER: Go ahead.
GOLDSTEIN: So does this mean that this could not then necessarily have an impact on November's election?
HOBBS: We don't believe that anything will happen in this case before the November election. And right now, there is a stay, so the law will be in effect.
GILGER: OK, that is Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs joining us this morning. Secretary Hobbs, thank you so much for the time.
HOBBS: Thank you.