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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona officials explain presidential preference election mishap

Photo Illustration / Sydney Rich

While all eyes were on the Grand Canyon State for the presidential preference election on March 22, Maricopa County voters experienced long lines and Pima County voters experienced confusing, incorrect party affiliations on their voter registrations.

Voters registered with parties that do not have a participating political party, for example, independents, may not vote in the Arizona Presidential Preference Election.

Voters who showed up to their polling locations expecting to vote for their party’s nominees were told they were not able to vote because their party affiliations stated independent or party not designated. These voters insisted they were long-time Republicans or Democrats. They were issued provisional ballots.

A provisional ballot is a “safe guard” way of voting, according to Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez. If a problem arises at the polling location that prevents someone from not voting, the voter is allowed to vote by provisional ballot, which will be sent to the Pima County Recorder’s Office to be vetted and to determine whether the voter is permitted to vote and whether the vote will count.

Rodriguez said no voter fraud occurred in this year’s elections.

“The vast majority of our provisional ballots were issued because voters were sent an early ballot, didn’t vote [with] it, so they showed up to the polling location,” Rodriguez said.

According to the Pima County Recorder’s Office’s press release, 1,856 Pima County voters who went to polls on Election Day were not registered with one of the three political parties participating in the election, which is required by Arizona state law to be eligible to vote in the presidential preference election.

Rodriguez said she thinks most people don’t know when they go to the Motor Vehicle Division and update their licenses, they’re also filling out voter registration on the same form.

“Unknowingly to them, when they go to a motor vehicle office, the form that they fill out at motor vehicle is also acting as a voter registration form,” Rodriguez said. “If they mark ‘Yes, I want to register to vote,’ and they leave the party affiliation blank, the clerk at MVD will process it as blank.”

Rodriguez said once the Pima County Recorder’s Office receives the voter registration form with a blank party affiliation, they categorize the voter as “party not designated.”

“We understand that when the recorders found out about this issue, that when a citizen goes into a motor vehicle office, they’re thinking about a driver’s license issue, not a voter registration issue,” Rodriguez said.

Brad Nelson, director of the Pima County Elections Department, said there were 124 physical polling stations on Election Day, 10 of which he stopped into to ensure things were going smoothly.

“I spent most of my afternoon around some of the polling places near the [UA] campus and during that time I found some individuals standing in line questioning their party affiliation, saying they thought they had registered to vote as a member of one of the major political parties,” Nelson said.

He encouraged those voters who were sure there was a mistake to cast a provisional ballot.

While speaking with the voters, Nelson concluded the majority of voters who had a mistake in their party affiliations had recently been to the MVD to renew a license or update an address.

Kindall Gray, a UA adjunct English professor, said she was unable to vote when she went to her designated polling location.

“I gave them my name and ID, like usual, and they had me on the list, but told me that I wasn’t registered with a party,” Gray said.

Gray said she has always been a life-long registered Democrat. She said the poll worker presumably made a phone call to the Pima County Recorder’s Office and confirmed her as being “party not designated.”

“She didn’t offer me a provisional ballot or anything,” Gray said. “She just said I couldn’t vote at all.”

Gray said she was disappointed that she was unable to vote in such an important election year.

Gray said she renewed her driver’s license in February 2015 and was not aware that, even though she is already registered to vote with a party, she had to mark it again on the form.

Working together with the secretary of state to fix the confusion of filling out party affiliations when at the MVD is something Rodriguez said needs to be done.

“This election is always extremely confusing and it sends a monkey wrench into our system because of the laws being different on who can vote and who cannot,” Rodriguez said.

Follow Amanda Oien on Twitter

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