WASHINGTON, D.C. — Last week, Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) announced the allocation of $2.3 million in American Rescue Plan funding for a variety of election improvements to ensure the battleground state is better equipped heading into 2024.
Hobbs also issued three executive orders, which enable state employees to serve as poll observers without taking time off, authorize the use of state buildings as polling locations and provide Arizonans more opportunities to register to vote.
The funding and executive orders come on the heels of a report with policy recommendations from the state’s bipartisan elections task force that Hobbs convened in January of this year. The 2022 elections were particularly contentious in the state as election deniers challenged election results and two counties initially refused to certify results.
The task force addressed election administration needs such as poll worker recruitment and a state-run website with voter information; voter registration overhauls such as requiring provisional ballot forms to serve as voter registration forms and rights restoration for those with felony convictions. The task force also suggested narrowing the state’s recount margins, citing the likelihood of numerous and unnecessary recounts.
Almost half of the $2.3 million investment, which is viewed as a “down payment” toward the 16 task force-recommended changes, will establish an elections fellowship program for young people to bolster election administration capabilities in counties across the state with officials who have not previously administered elections. It would also provide temporary staffing support and expert consultants to those counties with new chief elections officials.
The remaining money will be used to maintain the statewide voter registration database and to tackle critical election administration projects, including county-level election security, training for county officials to better support disabled voters and additional poll worker recruitment.
In a statement, Hobbs called attention to her experience as the former secretary of state and contextualized how critical the improvements are: “Election officials and voters are facing new challenges when it comes to administering elections and participating in our democracy.”
The multifaceted investment in Arizona’s elections comes at a time when many states have been limiting private funding for election administration and losing invaluable years of experience as local election officials quit en masse. The cost is particularly high in Arizona, which has become a hotbed for election conspiracies. A report from Issue One found that 80% of the state’s counties have new chief local elections officials as of November 2020.