Friday, November 9, 2012

Provisional Ballots Spoiled By Restrictive State Law, ACLU of Arizona Says

Jon O'Neill

PHOENIX – A restrictive Arizona law helped invalidate thousands of ballots cast in the 2008 election, a new report by the ACLU of Arizona shows. The disfranchised voters, more than 13,000 of them, used provisional ballots, an option meant to help people who, for many reasons, wind up at the wrong precinct on Election Day. But Arizona law requires that even a provisional ballot be cast in the right precinct. All voters leave the polls expecting their ballots to be counted. But for one in every 10 Arizona voters who cast a provisional ballot in 2008, they didn't.

The ACLU report, found here, which surveyed Maricopa, Pima, Pinal, Yavapai and Coconino counties, shows:

There were 131,476 provisional ballots cast in 2008 in the five respective counties. Of those, 39,741 were spoiled. The number one reason that ballots were invalidated – with 13,467 spoiled ballots – was because they were cast in the wrong precinct.

More than 10 percent of voters casting provisional ballots probably left the polling place feeling as if they had voted, when in fact their ballots were never counted.

One of every 14 Maricopa County voters cast a provisional ballot in 2008. The county then rejected 29,531 provisional ballots, nearly a third of which might have counted had the voter been directed to the correct polling location.

Those who voted with a provisional ballot in Pima County in 2008 had a greater than one-in-six chance that their votes did not count because they were cast in the wrong polling place.

"Arizona's requirement disfranchises the very people provisional ballots are supposed to help," said Alessandra Soler Meetze, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona. "Therefore, we are calling on lawmakers to rescind the requirement – but until it is, it will be up to voters to prevent wrong polling place rejections."

A recent nationwide study showed that while 30 states have laws similar to Arizona's, 15 other states have rules that are less restrictive and allow voters to use provisional ballot in the way they were intended to be used.

In response to concerns raised in the report and to help alleviate problems at the polls, the ACLU Voting Rights Project also issued new Arizona-specific Voter Empowerment Cards that include tips on where to vote, what to bring to the polls and who to call to report Election Day problems. The cards can be downloaded here.

The ACLU of Arizona is also urging people to make sure they’re registered by Monday, October 4 to vote in the November election, and to take advantage of early voting by requesting an early ballot by 5 p.m. on October 22nd.

"By remaining informed about precinct changes and the limits of provisional ballots, Arizonans can protect their right to vote and ensure their ballots are counted on Election Day," added Laughlin McDonald, director of the ACLU Voter Rights Project.

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