Arizona special election costs could exceed $11 million

Gov. Jan Brewer in her former role as Secretary of State, overseer of elections (Photo: Paul O'Neill, EV Tribune)

[Source: Jeremy Duda, Arizona Capitol Times] — Gov. Jan Brewer is asking the Legislature to put two items on the ballot for a special election that she believes would help close Arizona’s budget gap and revitalize the state’s economy.  But those proposals come with costs of their own.  The Secretary of State’s Office has drawn up three scenarios for special elections in which voters would decide whether to temporarily raise taxes and overhaul the Voter Protection Act of 1998.  The special election, if approved by the Legislature, could cost the state nearly $12 million… for a number of expenses, including the ballots, promotional literature, Election Day personnel, training, voter outreach, and early-ballot processing.

  • According to the Secretary of State’s Office, the first scenario, a regular November-style election, would be the most costly, with an $11.7 million price tag.  That option would require all polling places in the state to open on Election Day, with 120 days notice and a 33-day early-voting period.
  • The second option, modeled after presidential primaries, would cost about $8.3 million, with fewer polling places than the first scenario and a 15-day period for early voting.  That type of election would also require 120 days notice.
  • The final option, a mail-in ballot election, would have a 33-day early voting period, would require just 90 days notice, and would cost about $10.1 million.

Secretary of State Ken Bennett ordered his office to start examining the costs of a special election in February after media reports stated that Brewer would ask the Legislature to send a temporary tax increase proposal to the voters.  She made that request on March 4 in a speech before a joint session of the Legislature, asking lawmakers to either put the issue to a public vote or simply approve it themselves.  “I’m just trying to be prepared, knowing that that’s something they were at least thinking about,” Bennett said after the initial reports that Brewer would ask for a special election.

The governor also requested that the Legislature put another question to the voters, an overhaul of 1998’s Proposition 105, the Voter Protection Act.  Brewer said many of the funds that are protected by that proposition would be put to better use in bridging the $3 billion budget gap the state is expecting to face in fiscal year 2010.