PHOENIX – Prominent leaders across a wide spectrum of Arizona's elections, business, and nonprofit sectors today urged the Legislature to include Secretary of State Adrian Fontes' "timely and reasonable" requests in the FY2024 state budget.
The funding asks, which include $4.2 million from the state general fund and $3 million in existing federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) money, will go towards essential programs and initiatives, including preparing counties for the 2024 elections, modernizing out-of-date and inefficient systems used by job-creating businesses, and keeping Arizona's promise to protect victims of sexual abuse and assault from their predators.
"These community, business and nonprofit leaders have on-the-ground experience getting results, so I am proud to have them join me in this urgent call for action," Secretary Fontes said. "Not only do these leaders understand the numerous challenges facing us, but they also see the opportunities for our state to provide the elections, business services, and protections that Arizonans deserve."
Arizona's counties are responsible for running our elections. However, 10 of these 15 counties have lost a top elections official, making the need for additional resources, training, and guidance particularly acute. With the first ballots for the Presidential Preference Election being sent just 10 months from now, counties need assistance now to make adequate preparations for voters.
To immediately help counties prepare for the 2024 elections, Secretary Fontes made a budget request of $1,166,500 in on-going funding and a one-time ask of $500,000. This funding would help pay for six full-time Secretary of State employees to provide support and training to counties, as well as upgrade critical IT systems.
Additionally, in response to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security designating elections as critical infrastructure, Secretary Fontes is requesting $1,037,600 in on-going funding and $450,000 in one-time funding to create a Chief Information Security Officer position to help counties identify and correct vulnerabilities in response to threats from foreign and non-state cyber attacks.
To educate voters about changes to the election process, as well as inform them about the unique rules covering the Presidential Preference Election, Secretary Fontes asked the Legislature to appropriate $3 million in HAVA money that Arizonans have already paid to the federal government.
Less well known, but no less important, are the Secretary of State's services to the business community. To better serve those looking to open businesses in the state, Secretary Fontes is requesting funding to modernize his Business Services Division. Currently, essential functions such as registering certain businesses involve printing a form, filling it out, and mailing it back with a physical check. IT systems utilized by businesses have not been updated since the early 2000s and some records are still being kept on micro-fiche.
Secretary Fontes' budget ask includes $110,000 in on-going funding and $250,000 in one-time funding to improve this IT infrastructure and integrate the office's systems into Business One Stop, a single online portal for businesses looking to relocate to Arizona. The funds would also be used to professionalize and lower turnover among Business Services staff, who are responsible for approving millions of dollars in job-creating investments.
To keep Arizona's promise to victims, Secretary Fontes is asking for a stable funding source to replace the loss of federal Victim of Crime Act money for the Address Confidentiality Program, which shields the addresses of victims of sexual abuse and stalking from public records requests to protect them from their predators. His ask of $250,000 in on-going funding would help secure the future of this vital program.
For a detailed explanation of all of Secretary Fontes' budget requests, visit https://azsos.gov/sites/default/files/Appropriations_Presentation_final.pdf.
A copy of the joint letter to the State Legislature