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Arizona Secretary of State Reverses Position, Calling for Overhaul of Election Process

Photo courtesy of Adios Arpaio's Facebook page.

UNITE HERE sends us this report from Arizona. 

After more than a week of protests that brought national attention to what Rachel Maddow called “Arizona’s Broken Electoral System,” Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett over the weekend told the Associated Press that he will seek an overhaul of Arizona’s ballot-counting process.

Bennett’s announcement comes just days after his initial insistence that, while not perfect, Arizona’s counting this year was customary and that protests were unnecessary.

Brendan Walsh, one of the directors of the UNITE HERE-funded “Adios Arpaio” campaign, spoke with Bennett on the phone Thursday and Friday.  

Last week, Secretary Bennett tried very hard to convince me that there was nothing out of the ordinary with the ballot counting in Maricopa and in Arizona this year, despite 35% of Maricopa County ballots having been uncounted the day after the election.  Statements this week by Bennett are a step in the right direction, and we look forward to working with him to make some positive changes to the state’s election system.

Secretary Bennett’s call to revamp Arizona’s ballot-counting system comes on the heels of a week of protests initiated by UNITE HERE Local 631 and other community groups. Those protests culminated in a rally and vigil on Thursday, where more than 500 community members gathered at the Maricopa County Recorder’s office to push for improvements in Arizona’s elections system. UNITE HERE and Promise Arizona also issued a formal letter to state officials, outlining concerns with the current state of election affairs in Arizona.

“I am so excited that people in government are finally listening to us,” said Carmen Robles, a 15-year-old volunteer who was among 2,000 UNITE HERE teen volunteers in Arizona, registering new voters as part of the “Adios Arpaio” campaign.

Now I can go back to my school and tell other students that all the work we did this year is really paying off.  This is a new Arizona.

This election marks the beginning of a “New Arizona.” Arizona has been ground zero for the war on the Latino community in the United States. In spite of the anti-immigrant attacks here, in the past year the Adios Arpaio campaign, driven by UNITE HERE, registered 35,000 new voters. Some 70% of those voters are Latino. In this year’s election, Latino voting by mail more than doubled in Arizona, from 90,000 to 220,000. Republicans statewide, including the notorious anti-immigrant Sheriff Joe Arpaio, are now changing their tune on immigration in response to Arizona’s newly energized electorate.

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