Counties inconsistent in provisional-vote rules
Was your vote counted?
?? In Arizona, 101,536 people whose names were not on the lists of registered voters cast "provisional ballots" and 73,658, or 72.5 percent of those, were later verified as voters and their ballots counted.
Number Number County cast counted
Apache 860 322
Cochise 1,145 774
Coconino 4,429 3,281
Gila 604 495
Graham 143 93
Greenlee 91 82
La Paz 122 90
Maricopa 68,636 50,709
Mohave 1,874 1,231
Navajo 1,419 510
Pima 14,794 11,144
Pinal 2,490 1,126
Santa Cruz 717 585
Yavapai 2,599 1,800
Yuma 1,613 1,416
Total 101,536 73,658
By Tom Beal
ARIZONA DAILY STAR 29 January 2005
About 5 percent of Arizona's voters - 101,536 of them, to be exact - had some trouble voting in the 2004 election, and 27,878 of them had their "provisional" votes thrown out.
The No. 1 reason for ballot rejection is that voters went to the wrong polling place.
If you were, for instance, one of the 1,118 voters who went to the wrong polling place on Election Day in Pima County, your vote didn't count.
But at least two Arizona counties counted those ballots - an action the Secretary of State's Office said would be illegal.
In Gila County, officials counted votes for president and all other issues and candidates who would have been on the ballot at the voter's official polling place.
In Pinal County, they counted everything - including votes in elections for a geographic area in which the voters didn't live.
Deputy Secretary of State Kevin Tyne said he wasn't aware that officials in Gila and Pinal counties had counted those votes, but said his office's procedures manual, which says they should not be counted, "has the force of law, and is pre-cleared by the Justice Department."
Tyne said federal law requires that anyone who shows up to vote must be given a provisional ballot, "but it doesn't say they can vote." He said Friday that he couldn't comment further because "we haven't received any complaints from candidates or voters. Should we receive a complaint on this issue, we will take action."
Pinal County Recorder Laura Dean-Lytle said the number of "wrong polling place" ballots she verified for counting was too small to affect any of the local elections in that county just north of Tucson.
"I just felt it was not fair. These people went to all the trouble to register and vote and I just didn't think it was right not to count them," Dean-Lytle said.
In Gila County, Recorder Linda Haught Ortega did not verify ballots cast in the wrong precinct. But Haught Ortega said her county's elections director, Dixie Mundy, decided to count those votes. "That's her prerogative," she said.
"If they were registered in Gila County and voted in the wrong precinct, we went ahead and duplicated their votes onto a ballot appropriate to them," said Mundy.
In sparsely populated La Paz County, along the Colorado River, no votes were discarded for being cast in the wrong precinct, but that's because everybody in La Paz followed directions, said Donna Hale, elections director. "We just direct them to the right place," she said.
Greenlee County also did not report rejection of ballots cast in the wrong polling place, but officials there did not return phone calls seeking comment Friday.
The question of whether to count ballots cast in the wrong polling place and the differing treatment of provisional voters was the subject of pre-election lawsuits in several "swing" states and a post-election lawsuit in Arizona.
The 2004 election was the first in which every state was ordered by federal law to allow provisional balloting, which has been allowed in Arizona under different names for three decades.
The congressional mandate, signed by President Bush in 2002, was a reaction to the close 2000 presidential election. The Help America Vote Act, in addition to offering money to voting systems and make America "chad-free," required states to offer provisional ballots to all voters whose names didn't appear on polling place lists.
The numbers are still being tabulated, but reports from 39 states, not including Arizona, show so far that 66 percent of all provisional ballots were counted, said Kay Stimson, communications director for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, the agency created by Congress to monitor the act.
In Arizona, 72.5 percent of those whose names did not appear on the voting lists were verified for counting.
Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez rejected the provisional ballots of 1,118 voters who went to the wrong polling place. Duplicating votes on the appropriate ballot would be time-consuming, she said. Besides, said Rodriguez, she is directed by the law not to count votes cast at the wrong polling place.
Yvonne Reed, spokeswoman for Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell, said a lot of people show up at the wrong polling place in the state's most populous county.
Election workers try their best to redirect voters, she said, because Maricopa does not count votes cast in the wrong place.
That could change for the next federal election, she predicted. Most election officials expect Congress to forestall future lawsuits on the issue by ordering that at least the federal portion of a ballot cast in the wrong place be counted.
Forcing the state to count those federal votes is the aim of a lawsuit filed after the 2004 election by the League of United Latin American Citizens, which claimed, among other reasons, that the law was not uniformly applied in Arizona.