Maricopa County elections officials got the title of a ballot measure wrong in the Spanish-language version of the May 17 ballot. This could lead to greater taxpayer costs and potential litigation.
Maricopa County elections officials are scrambling to correct an error on the Spanish-language ballot for the May 17 special election.
The ballot, which has gone to more than 1.3 million households in the county, gives the wrong title for Proposition 124, which proposes changes to the state’s public-safety pension system. Instead, the Spanish version of the ballot depicts it as an education-finance measure, which actually is Proposition 123.
The snafu has echoes of 2012, when the county recorder’s office made errors in Spanish-language elections materials three times.
The Yes on 124 campaign is consulting with its attorneys and trying to raise awareness of the mistake among voters in Arizona’s most-populous county.
“While the English language portion of the ballot is correct, Spanish speakers represent a significant portion of the electorate, and we want them to have accurate information,” Bryan Jeffries, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona, said in a statement.
The error appears to be limited to Maricopa County and does not affect the English-language title on the ballot.
By mid-afternoon, elections officials were readying an additional mailing to voters that would explain the error. They also plan to reprint all the ballots that will be distributed at the polls May 17.
Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell said error occurred when county officials were laying out the ballot format. They put in the title of Proposition 123, which is also on the ballot, as a placeholder until Prop. 124 had been finalized.
“If you remember,” Purcell said, “124 came on the ballot at the last minute. We were holding a place for it. They didn’t know if it would make it.”
Karen Osborne, the elections director, said the department is working with the group Mi Familia Vota, at the suggestion of Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo, on language that could best rectify the error.
“We want to get this thing put to bed tonight,” Osborne said Friday afternoon. “So we can get those out and mailed and labeled by Thursday.”
Gallardo said the error, coming on the heels of long lines at last month’s presidential preference election, as well as previous problems with Spanish-language ballot wording, is the result of “failed leadership.”
“This is just a huge, huge disappointment, because this has happened before,” said Gallardo, who learned of the error Friday morning when the state Democratic Party contacted him.
In 2012, the county erred three times with Spanish-language voting materials, drawing widespread condemnation.
Given those mistakes, Gallardo said, the county should have put systems in place to avoid a repeat.
If the state and county were still under the pre-clearance requirements of the Voting Rights Act, he wondered if the error would have occurred.
Clint Hickman, chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, called the error inexcusable.
“Given the scrutiny the County Election’s office has been under, I’m surprised and disappointed at this error,” he said in a statement.
However, he said he is gratified there is time to notify voters so their vote is properly informed.
Secretary of State Michele Reagan echoed that disappointment, and urged voters to use this opportunity to review their publicity pamphlet, which contains a sample ballot. The proposition titles are properly displayed in the booklet, which was sent to every registered voter in the state.
Meanwhile, the Yes on 124 campaign said it wants to make sure voters read their ballot carefully and understand the two ballot measures before them.
“The important thing is to remember that Prop. 124 will save taxpayers $1.5 billion,” campaign spokesman David Leibowitz said of the pension reforms.