Elections Department seeing uptick in abusive calls and letters

Rioters scale a wall at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Pinal County Recorder Dana Lewis confronted a surge in concerning interactions, citing an increase in irate calls and unwelcome mail targeting elections workers. Presenting her monthly update to the Board of Supervisors, Lewis revealed her proactive approach to addressing this distressing trend, seeking guidance from various county departments.

In her efforts to mitigate the impact of hostile communications, Lewis collaborated with Pinal Communications and Information Technology personnel. Their joint initiative explored the potential of call screening for effective customer service training and safety measures. Additionally, some received mail was forwarded to the county attorney for careful review, prioritizing staff well-being and security.

While no hazardous substances were identified in the mail, Lewis remains vigilant, proactively discussing training programs with the Pinal Office of Emergency Management to fortify staff against potential threats. Seeking collaborative alliances, Lewis engaged with postmasters in Coolidge and Florence, aiming to foster a collective commitment to safeguarding everyone involved in the elections process.

Addressing concerns raised by Supervisor Kevin Cavanaugh, Lewis confirmed that while the received mail lacked explicit threats, its nature was distasteful and disheartening, posing a burden on the dedicated staff.

The upcoming presidential preference election on March 19, 2024, prompted Lewis to diligently ensure the accuracy of mailed 90-day notices, urging recipients to report any address discrepancies. Emphasizing the importance of an efficient voter roll, she underscored the necessity for returned notices via the Postal Service.

As part of a comprehensive voter education campaign, efforts are underway to inform voters about the unique nuances of Arizona’s presidential preference election. Residents not on the active early-voting list were encouraged to request a one-time early ballot through the provided hotline.

The logistics of Election Day were also addressed, with Lewis extending an invitation to former Pinal County employees experienced in election work to participate once more. Supervisor Cavanaugh’s inquiry about GPS devices for ballot tracking elicited plans for implementing GPS locks, aiming for enhanced efficiency in the voting process.

Acknowledging the importance of diverse vendors, Lewis shared plans to diversify ballot printing sources to eliminate single points of failure. Runbeck Election Services remains the primary vendor, but a national request for proposals seeks to introduce redundancies for added reliability.

Lewis concluded her comprehensive report by acknowledging the ongoing construction of the new elections building, expressing gratitude to county communications teams, and highlighting vital training programs and personnel appointments that will fortify Pinal County’s electoral infrastructure.

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