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Pinal County needs to find a new elections director, after Michele Forney resigned effective in November to take a state-level job in Nevada. She had run 13 elections successfully since 2015. The goal should be to continue having elections in the county absent of unusual circumstances and controversy.

According to the Arizona Constitution, the Pinal Board of Supervisors is responsible for conducting elections in the county. A few years ago the board along with some others in the state had the elections director report to the county recorder, who also is an elected officeholder. The reason was that the recorder is responsible for voter registration, and with early voting now so prevalent, the Recorder’s Office is heavily involved with checking eligibility of ballots mailed in. More recently, however, the elections director was back under the county manager, who is hired by the supervisors.

The board last week discussed hiring a replacement for Forney. Supervisor Jeff Serdy of Apache Junction seemed to sum up the board’s goal of wanting a director who can prevent “partisanship” in elections and be “absolutely qualified.”

One idea offered was to have the director report directly to the supervisors instead of the county manager. That could potentially introduce a political twist that Pinal has thus far avoided. Supervisor Steve Miller urged caution with that idea and called for more discussion.

Mary Ellen Sheppard, deputy county manager and human resources director, suggested a slight upgrade in the pay range of the elections director, which seems to have merit. She summarized the situation splendidly by comparing the job to that of a wedding planner, someone who makes sure the big day comes off “without a hitch.”

Pinal County has been through many elections “without a hitch,” and continuing that string should be the board’s objective. Maintaining public confidence in elections is much better — and easier — than regaining it after a problem.

— Donovan Kramer Jr.

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