ACLU Faults|Arizona Voting Law

     PHOENIX (CN) – A state law caused Arizona to toss more than 13,000 provisional ballots cast in the November 2008 presidential election because they were filed in the wrong precinct on Election Day, the ACLU says. The state invalidated the provisional ballots of one in every 10 Arizona voters who cast one, the ACLU says in a new report, “Uncounted Voices.”

     The ACLU of Arizona says it wrote its report “to inform voters about their right to cast provisional ballots and ensure that those ballots are counted.”
     The Help America Vote Act of 2002 was “meant to help voters who arrive at the polls and are not on the list of registered voters,” but in Arizona the provisional ballot must be cast in the right polling precinct.
     According to the report, which surveyed Maricopa, Pima, Yavapai, Pinal, and Coconino counties, 131,476 provision ballots were cast in the five counties in 2008 – 39,741 of which were rejected. Of the spoiled ballots, 13,467 were discounted because they were filed at the wrong polling place.
     In Maricopa County, almost 100,000 voters cast provisional ballots. Almost a third of them – 29,531 – were spoiled, but may have been counted, had the “voter been directed to the correct polling location.”
     The ACLU report claims that at least 43 percent of polling locations in Maricopa County changed between 2006 and 2008, affecting “the state’s large elderly, minority, and young voter populations – groups who have been historically vulnerable to disfranchisement.”
     Voters who filed provisional ballots in Pima County had a 1-in-6 chance that their votes would not be counted because they were cast at the wrong precinct; about 3,200 were rejected from nearly 18,000 filed. In Yavapai County, voters had a 1-in-10 chance that their votes were not counted.
     Coconino County had 9 percent of provisional ballots cast, the highest percentage of the five counties included in the report. Provisional ballots there were more likely to be counted; only 6 percent were denied for being cast at the wrong precinct.
     Nearly 39 percent of provisional ballots were discounted in Pinal County, a higher percentage than any other county. Nineteen percent of the rejections were due to ballots being cast at the wrong location.
     The report claims that more than 10 percent of voters casting provisional ballots probably “left the polling place thinking that they had voted, when in fact their ballots were never counted.”
     “Even more importantly, those disfranchised voters were duly registered and qualified to vote and had their ballots rejected only because of where the ballots were cast.”
     In the five counties, 10.24 percent of the ballots were rejected because they were cast in the wrong polling place, according to the report.
     Arizona was named by national policy centers Demos and Common Cause as one of 10 states with “election laws, policies and practices which could impact enough voters to determine election outcomes.”
     The report cites provisional ballots and the state’s requirement for proof of citizenship to register to vote as “obstacles to voting.”

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