Election pamphlet blunder prompts calls for AZ Sec. of State to step down

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An independent investigator determined that Michele Reagan broke the law by failing to mail out more than 200,000 informational pamphlets to voters in May 2016. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) An independent investigator determined that Michele Reagan broke the law by failing to mail out more than 200,000 informational pamphlets to voters in May 2016. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Tom Ryan wants Reagan held accountable. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Tom Ryan wants Reagan held accountable. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
According to the investigation, "a violation of law occurred" yet "no crime was committed" and "no remedy exits" in state law to sanction or punish someone for not mailing election pamphlets on time. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) According to the investigation, "a violation of law occurred" yet "no crime was committed" and "no remedy exits" in state law to sanction or punish someone for not mailing election pamphlets on time. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Reagan said in a statement her office has made staffing changes, added additional layers of quality control and will utilize different vendors. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Reagan said in a statement her office has made staffing changes, added additional layers of quality control and will utilize different vendors. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

A Valley attorney is calling for Arizona's Secretary of State to step down, after an independent investigator determined that Michele Reagan broke the law by failing to mail out more than 200,000 informational pamphlets to voters prior to a special election in May 2016. 

The report paints an unflattering picture of what went on inside the Secretary of State's office leading up to last year's special election blunder.

[ORIGINAL STORY: Secretary of State failed to issue pamphlets for election (May 9, 2016)]

The report states, "there were significant breakdowns within the Secretary of State's office" that "resulted in the office's failure to meet its obligations." The investigation found "no remedy exists" in state law to sanction or punish someone for not mailing election pamphlets on time.

Despite the mistakes, the report commissioned by the state Attorney General's Office concluded that no one in the Secretary's office violated any criminal statutes. 

Valley attorney Tom Ryan believes the Secretary of State's screw-up could have swayed the vote on Proposition 123, an education-funding measure that ultimately passed by less than 20,000 votes.

[RELATED: Valley attorney seeks to postpone election on Prop 123 and Prop 124 (May 10, 2016)]

Ryan provided legal support for the campaign against Prop 123 and filed the complaint that launched the AG's investigation. He wants Reagan held accountable.

"This is just one in a series of monumental mistakes that have been made by this office that have affected the outcome of elections," said Ryan. "She has proven that she is unfit and unqualified for the office and should be effectively removed. We should not have to wait until the next election."

[RELATED: Lawyer calls for impeachment of Secretary of State Reagan (May 13, 2016)]

The independent investigation determined staff in Reagan's office were inexperienced with the massive lists of voting households and failed to act once they discovered errors. Approximately 200,000 households were left off the final mailing list, meaning an estimated 400,000 voters did not receive a pamphlet.

"The findings in the report were worse than we initially thought," said State Senator Katie Hobbs, who is running for Reagan's job. 

"We found out that staff knew about it for nearly three weeks before the public was informed. That's an egregious violation of the public trust."

A spokesman for the Secretary of State's office acknowledged that "mistakes were made and we were responsible."

"Since, we’ve made staffing changes, added additional layers of quality control and will utilize different vendors," said spokesman Matt Roberts.

New pamphlet issue revealed

On the same day the report was released, election officials revealed a new issue with publicity pamphlets in Cochise County.

Citing a technical error, the county announced that up to 4,500 residents who are registered on the Permanent Early Voters’ List may not have received pamphlets before the upcoming Nov. 7 election.

Voters in Bisbee, Benson, San Simon, and Willcox will decide whether to approve school budget overrides in their respective unified school districts, the county said.

County Recorder David Stevens urged voters in the four school districts to visit the county elections website for the pamphlet information.

County spokeswoman Amanda Baillie said the problem "was on the county's end."

"The issue was discovered this morning when County Recorder staff were reviewing the invoice from the printer who produced the pamphlet, and realized some pamphlets were missing. This was due to the County not providing a complete voters' list, and not an error of the printer or Secretary of State's office," she said by email.

"The County Recorder's Office immediately informed the Secretary of State's office which has been working with the county to rectify the issue. The County appreciates the Secretary of State working with us to swiftly resolve the issue and voters will still have access to the Publicity Pamphlets via the County website, or can request a hard copy."

[RELATED: No charges against secretary of state over elections manual June 6, 2016)]

Here is the full statement from the Secretary of State's office in response to Wednesday's independent report:

"We’ve reviewed the report, and as we said last year, mistakes were made and we were responsible.  Since, we’ve made staffing changes, added additional layers of quality control and will utilize different vendors.

In addition, the office works closely with our counties to help better communicate with voters about accessing important election information when errors occur as evidenced by our actions related to an error made in Maricopa County last year, and now with another publicity pamphlet issue which Cochise County just alerted us to."

[RELATED: AZ Sec. of State Reagan hopes other election officials learn from her tumultuous year]

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Jason Barry
Jason Barry has been reporting in the Valley since 1997.

Click to learn more about Jason.

Jason Barry

Jason Barry has been reporting in the Valley since 1997.

He is a nine-time Rocky Mountain Emmy Award winner who is best known for his weekly Dirty Dining reports, which highlight local restaurants with major health code violations.

Jason was born in Los Angeles and graduated from the University of Miami.

An avid sports fan, Jason follows the Diamondbacks, Cardinals and Suns with his wife, Karen, and son, Joshua.

His favorite stories to cover are the station’s Pay it Forward segments, which reward members of the community with $500 for going ‘above and beyond’ the call of duty to help others.

Jason, started his career at WBTW-TV in Florence, SC before moving to WALA-TV in Mobile, AL, was named the Associated Press Reporter of the Year in 2002.

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