Press Release: Maricopa County Recorder’s Office files suit to protect ballot access for at-risk voters in medical isolation

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Press Release: Maricopa County Recorder’s Office files suit to protect ballot access for at-risk voters in medical isolation

PHOENIX (September 25) - Today, Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes filed a court action, asking that his office be allowed to use virtual meeting technology to continue assisting isolated voters. This action seeks to protect ballot access for voters with physical limitations who are confined with restricted access due to COVID-19, such as voters in assisted care facilities, nursing homes, and hospitals.


The complaint for declaratory relief, filed in Arizona Superior Court today, asks the court to “... ensure that voters in Maricopa County who need assistance in filling out their ballots due to serious disabilities and cannot receive assistance in proximity to another person due to public health restrictions are able to vote in the November 2020 general election.”


“My job is to help voters vote. State and federal law guarantee this right,” Fontes said. “If we cannot use the virtual meeting technology to service these voters through our bipartisan Special Election Board (SEB) process, some of our most vulnerable citizens’ voting rights are at risk.”


“Gaining access to voters in these restricted facilities and places has been complicated due to COVID-19, but I still must allow them their right to vote,” Fontes said. “There is no time to waste bickering about how to do that. We need a well-established set of rules early enough before the election so we can do our jobs effectively as we move through early voting and beyond. If interpretation of this law is in doubt we need the court to give us guidance right away.”


The County Recorder’s Office implemented a new policy for serving voters in care facilities based on provisions of the Governor’s Executive Orders. These Executive Orders limited access to care facilities due to COVID-19 health concerns while encouraging innovation in serving residents confined in these facilities. An Executive Order promoting the use of video conferencing technology to meet governmental responsibilities also informed the creation of the Maricopa County procedure.


Special Election Boards, authorized under A.R.S. § 16-549, made up of two members of different political parties, used video conferencing tools to assist voters who had restricted access due to COVID-19 and were physically unable to fill out a ballot themselves during the August Primary election. The bipartisan Special Election Boards receive direction via the video conferencing technology from the voter to fill out the ballot on their behalf exactly as they would have had they met in person. Ten voters were served using this process of the more than 860,000 voters who cast ballots during the August Primary election.


Maricopa County had planned to utilize the same process during the General Election to serve voters with restricted access, as long as the COVID-19 restrictions remain in place, who also have physical limitations which prevent them from marking their ballots. The Secretary of State recently issued guidelines consistent with Maricopa County‘s procedure for utilization of this process statewide for this purpose. The Governor’s Office subsequently informed the public they believe these guidelines should not be followed, creating uncertainty over how this vulnerable group of voters should be served to guarantee their right to vote.


Contact: Diana Solorio

Public Information Officer

(602) 299-2751