Voting Groups Ask Department Of Justice To Investigate Election Irregularities
A young woman holds up a sign at the Maricopa County Department of Elections office.
Jude Joffe-Block
November 09, 2012

PHOENIX -- Arizona voter registration groups are asking the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate Election Day irregularities they say impacted minority voters.

The voting registration groups under a single coalition, One Arizona, include Mi Familia Vota and Voto Latino. Collectively, these groups have registered tens of thousands of Latino voters this election cycle and put many more on early voting lists.

Among One Arizona’s concerns are reports that newly registered voters did not receive the early ballots they requested in the mail, and had to vote provisionally at the polls.

More than 172,000 Arizona voters cast provisional ballots.

Because of Arizona's voter identification requirements, a portion of the state's provisional ballots are made up of voters who did not bring sufficient identification to the polls. Those voters have to present additional identification documents by Wednesday in order for their provisional ballot to count.

"We believe that many of these [provisional ballots] were given in error, and that it is up to the county and the Secretary of State to reach out to people who need to bring additional ID, or who may have been turned away incorrectly," said Monica Sandschafer of One Arizona.

Sandschafer says the coalition called the Department of Justice on Friday to request an investigation into what she alleged was "widespread mismanagement, and we believe, even targeted mismanagement in certain Latino and African American precincts."

The scope of the reported irregularities is unknown. Advocates say they received reports from Latino voters who had problems on Election Day or never received an early ballot. But at this point, there is no way to verify whether a disproportionate number of provisional ballots were cast by Latino voters.

One group that registered a large number of voters announced it would make calls to 20,000 Latino voters on the early voting list to find out if they had received early ballots in the mail.

At a a Friday press conference on the steps of the Maricopa County elections office, advocates turned in a petition with 20,000 signatures, asking election officials for transparency in the process and for every vote to count.

In a separate letter issued Friday, the ACLU of Arizona called on Maricopa County and state officials to investigate what led to provisional voting on Nov. 6, and expressed concern about impacts on minority voters.

"Any disproportionate burden upon minority voters to vote by provisional ballot is unacceptable and may violate the Voting Rights Act," read the letter signed by Executive Director Alessandra Soler. "We call upon your office to examine the process by which higher numbers of provisional ballots were issued this year and determine whether any particular community was disproportionately impacted."

But Secretary of State Ken Bennett said there was no information available so far to suggest provisional ballots were issued disproportionately in different precincts, and data by precinct would eventually be available to the public.

Bennett linked the increase in provisional ballots statewide since 2008 to a proportional increase in registered voters. At a news conference, he said every provisional ballot would be processed, and those valid would count towards the final vote tally.

"Usually about 70 percent of the provisional ballots are found to have been cast by registered voters in the correct precincts, and about 70 percent of the ballots will be counted," Bennett said. "But every one will be checked. And if it can be counted, it will."

As of Friday afternoon, hundreds of thousands of early and provisional ballots still remained to be counted throughout Arizona.

In Maricopa County, the Recorder's office alone has 219,703 early ballots left to count. The office indicated it has identified 120,000 provisional ballots to be processed, up from 116,000 on Thursday.

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