- Associated Press - Thursday, May 12, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - A Chandler lawyer’s request to have next week’s special election postponed because hundreds of thousands of voters didn’t receive their election guides in time was rejected Thursday by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich.

The state’s top legal officer said it was clear Secretary of State Michele Reagan’s office violated the law, but there was no legal remedy available.

A frustrated Brnovich said cancelling the election would disenfranchise many more voters who have already cast early ballots than the more than 400,000 who didn’t receive election publicity pamphlets.

Voters are being asked in Proposition 123 to boost withdrawals from the state land trust to fund education and in Proposition 124 to overhaul the state police and firefighter pension system. The campaign manager for the Yes on Proposition 123 campaign said the measure is designed to get money to schools quickly and any delay will make them wait.

“Because of the actions of the Secretary of State she’s put all Arizonans, including the people that are supportive of Prop 123, in a very precarious and very bad situation,” Brnovich told reporters. “I don’t know what the right word is to express it, but it pisses me off as an Arizonan and as attorney general.”

The voter pamphlet problem is the latest to dog Arizona elections. Massive lines at polling places in Maricopa County during the March 22 presidential primary led to a federal review and a pair of court challenges. Next week’s election was marred by misprints on some Spanish-language ballots.

Reagan’s office acknowledges that more than 200,000 households with multiple voters in all but Pima and Maricopa counties didn’t get the guides at least 10 days before early voting began on April 20, as required by law. Those households finally got the guides last week.

Attorney Tom Ryan asked Brnovich in a Tuesday letter to ask a judge to postpone the elections. He said election law clearly lays out when voter guides explaining measures on the ballot must be delivered. He also noted that an election law pushed by Reagan and signed by Gov. Doug Ducey in 2015 requires “strict compliance” of election laws covering initiatives and referendums.

Ryan said Thursday he was considering whether to file his own court action, as Brnovich said was an option. He also said Reagan’s election director, Eric Spencer, should resign.

“I think Attorney General Brnovich confirmed my allegations that the secretary of state engaged in a massive election fiasco and then covered it up,” Ryan said. “I know there has been a lot of public expression of anger about the lack of a remedy. But I say that all such anger should be appropriately directed to the office of secretary of state.”

The issue wasn’t made public until the past several days. Reagan spokesman Matt Roberts has repeatedly sidestepped questions about why the public wasn’t notified when the problem was discovered nearly three weeks ago. He noted that the voter pamphlet is available online and the vendor has been fired, and Reagan was working to fix the problem.

Brnovich wasn’t taking that as a good answer and said he was planning to investigate how the mix-up occurred, why it was withheld from the public and how to prevent similar problems in the future.

“Frankly I think there’s a huge question that all of you in the media need to be asking, is when did the secretary of state know about this, and why did it take weeks in order to inform the public or a complaint from Mr. Ryan to get this information forward?” Brnovich said.

Roberts said Thursday that Reagan was pleased the attorney general came to the conclusion that a delay wasn’t warranted, as Reagan had. He also criticized Brnovich for calling a news conference when the two offices had been communicating for days and Reagan was preparing a formal response.

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