How Elections Work - The Basics
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Arizona has a decentralized election system. What this means, is that there is not a single point of entry into our election system that could disrupt the entire process. Each county is responsible for conducting elections in their jurisdiction. For statewide elections, the counties conduct the election in their county and the Secretary of State aggregates the results from each county to determine the statewide results.

What are the key roles in Elections?

Arizona has 15 counties, and each county has a Board of Supervisors (elected positions), a County Recorder (elected position) and an Elections Director (appointed by the BOS or Recorder). While these entities are responsible for election administration, that administration must be done in accordance with election law.

The Arizona Legislature:

The Arizona Legislature adopts laws related to the administration of elections. They set the policy for how elections should be conducted in the state of Arizona, including determining when elections are held, key deadlines such as when early voting begins and the qualifications for voting. ARS Titles 16 and 19 apply to elections.

The Arizona Secretary of State:

The Arizona Secretary of State (SOS) is the Chief Election Officer for the state. The Elections Services Division is responsible for certifying state election results, serves as the filing officer for federal, statewide and legislative candidates and statewide ballot measures. The SOS is responsible for the Elections Procedures Manual, which details the procedures elections officials must follow to ensure election practices are consistent and efficient throughout the state. The SOS also certifies election equipment, conducts logic & accuracy tests on election equipment, administers HAVA funds, and maintains the statewide voter registration database.

The County Board of Supervisors:

The Board of Supervisors (BOS) has specific election related responsibilities, including determining the polling places for Election Day, emergency early voting locations and certifying the official election results for the county. Importantly, the BOS also sets the budget for the County Recorder and County Elections Departments.

The County Recorder:

The County Recorder is in charge of voter registration and early voting. The County Recorder’s Office processes and maintains voter registration records, mails out early ballots and verifies early ballot affidavits and the voter signature. The County Recorder reviews and verifies every mail ballot to confirm the identity of the voter prior to the ballot being counted.

The County Election Director:

The County Election Director is responsible for the conduct of elections on Election Day and ballot tabulation. The Election Director oversees the securing of polling places, hires and trains poll workers, conducts logic and accuracy testing on the equipment and tabulates the votes.

At a Glance:

  • The Legislature adopts the laws that govern elections.
  • Voter Registration and Early Voting is administered by the County Recorder.
  • Election day activities, including polling place set up, poll worker hiring and training and tabulating votes is administered by the County Election Director.
  • Approving election day voting locations, emergency early voting locations, and approving budgets are administered by the County Board of Supervisors.
  • Certifying state results, developing the Election Procedures Manual, maintaining the statewide voter registration system and administering HAVA money are administered by the Secretary of State’s Office.
  • All of these entities work together to administer elections in Arizona.

Want to Know More?

To find out more about these elected officials and their departments/duties check out our How Government Works section below.

State Level County Level

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