Somehow, Benny White makes it all sound so interesting when really, it’s a lot of what we’d call boring-but-important work.
He’s the Republican candidate for Pima County Recorder. He’s up against Gabriella Cazares-Kelly, the Democrat. One of them will step into the shoes of F. Ann Rodriguez, who has held the job for 28 years.
Primarily, the County Recorder is the keeper of voter registration and property records. That’s selling the job short, but that’s the gist of it.
It’s the voter registration part that has gone high profile this year with COVID-19, the president, questions surrounding the U.S. Postal Service and general suspicion feeding into whether the Nov. 3 vote can be pulled off with integrity.
This is also one of those elected posts that shouldn’t be partisan but is. You’d hope the goals are the same for Republicans and Democrats: Put the mechanisms and people in place to guard the voting process.
Clearly, White is highly qualified for the job. He has 12 years of experience in all aspects of elections: buying and testing equipment, counting ballots, monitoring all processes involving mailed ballots; auditing elections. He has worked for years with the Secretary of State’s office on the Elections Procedures Manual used statewide.
His website (www.bennyforrecorder.com) speaks to his attention to detail and deep understanding of the job and the potential issues that can arise. And there are many.
White is a former Marine who also served 14 years in the Air National Guard, where he ran a fighter weapons school for fighter pilots. He has led as many as 150 people and has overseen millions of dollars in budgets. His opponent, in a recent debate, acknowledged a lack of supervisor experience, saying, “This is an area where I have some need for growth.” The Recorder would oversee 42 people.
Here’s the kind of stuff County Recorders obsess over. White is looking at how to deal with provisional ballots — those cast at the polls and counted later. Usually they’re cast by people who’ve moved but haven’t updated their registration and showed up at the wrong polling site. They slow up the process big-time.
The said there are options, including a voting center where your new address can be entered immediately and a ballot-on-demand is printed on request. This would reduce provisional ballots 95 percent, he said. There would be fewer voting centers but you could use any of them.
Why can’t we do this now? Ballot-on-demand printers are expensive and there were issues with speed at one point, though not now, he said.
While some bristle at fewer voting centers — is that voter suppression? — White calls it a great convenience and you don’t have to worry about confusion over your polling site.
White also wants to improve the accuracy and currency of voter registration rolls. He and his team have walked to 27,000 houses with campaign literature after printing out a precinct’s registration with names. He’s finding about 20 percent of records have errors — the person has died, moved or there’s no house there.
While a lot of Recorders use the Postal Service change-of-address forms, he’d guess about 20,000 people in Pima County don’t bother with that — that’s four to five percent.
White’s website is perhaps the most extensive I’ve seen of any candidate anytime, anywhere. Worth a visit.
— Dan Shearer
This is one in a series of columns on 2020 candidates. We meet with the candidates who contact us and care enough to come down to Green Valley and Sahuarita and talk to us.