Election Day brings with it the tantalizing possibility that voters in Arizona will do what should have been done years ago: end the career of Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, the self-appointed, self-promoting scourge of illegal immigrants whose five-term reign has been a disaster for law enforcement, county budgets, the lives of immigrants and Latinos and the rule of law.
Sheriff Joe, who is seeking a sixth four-year term, faces a credible challenger in Paul Penzone, a retired Phoenix police sergeant and Democrat.
Anti-Arpaio forces see signs that the sheriff is breaking a sweat — in the abundance of outside money, ferocious negative ads and election-related mischief. A reporter for the local CBS-TV affiliate, for example, stated wrongly on the air that it was a felony to possess someone else’s ballot — which, if true, would pose a huge problem for the dump-Arpaio groups that have been scouring the county gathering early-voting ballots for delivery to election officials. As long you have a voter’s permission and don’t pretend to be a government employee, handling other people’s ballots is perfectly legal, a fact that the county recorder, a Republican named Helen Purcell, was urged to point out (she eventually did). That didn’t stop Sheriff Arpaio’s campaign from reportedly making robo-calls urging voters not to let anyone take their early ballots — you wouldn’t want to break the law!
Anti-Arpaio groups have also argued that the sheriff’s supporters are trying to suppress the Latino vote. It’s hard to blame them for being suspicious. This is the county, after all, where supporters of a Republican state senator facing a tough recall election put a fake opponent with a Spanish name on the ballot, to dilute the opposition. The sham candidate, Olivia Cortes, eventually withdrew.
Ms. Purcell’s office has already had to acknowledge that voting-information cards and bookmarks it printed in Spanish gave the wrong date for Election Day: Nov. 8, not Nov. 6. Ms. Purcell called it an error. (“I wish I could say we never made a mistake in this office,” her statement said.) The same mistake was not made in the English-language materials.