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Super confusion at Arizona polls The Arizona Republic, Anne Ryman and Shaun McKinnon, Feb. 5, 2008 Super Tuesday turned into super confusion today for many voters participating in Arizona's presidential primary as frustrating questions arose about party registration, mail-in ballots and polling places. Reports surfaced almost immediately this morning about voters who were turned away or forced to cast a provisional ballot because their names did not appear on the voting roster. Even more common, some voters were told they had requested and received an early ballot. They were instructed to fill out a ballot that would not be counted until election officials could verify it was not a duplicate. And some polling places seemed ill-prepared to handle the extra traffic created by the consolidation of precincts. All three issues caused confusion at many polling places, creating delays during busy periods in the morning and during the noon hour. Additional delays are expected early this evening when people finish work and stop to vote. Polls close at 7 p.m. By 10:30 this morning, election workers at Val Vista Lakes in Gilbert had accepted 49 provisional ballots, according to elections inspector Joyce Jordal, who described turnout as higher than she's seen in 15 years of working at the precinct. Among those forced to cast a provisional ballot art Val Vista Lakes was Todd Wood. "I've voted at this precinct for the last 13 years and they didn't have my name registered," said Wood, 48, a businessman who said he is a registered Republican. "I had to vote on a provisional ballot. I'm a little suspicious about why presidential elections would not parallel state elections." At a polling place near McDowell Road and 15th Avenue, similar confusion developed. As the numbers of rejected voters grew, they demanded to see a district supervisor to discuss the problem. Voters waited more than an hour and half to cast their ballots this morning at 12033 N. Clubhouse Sq., in Youngtown, near 111th and Alabama avenues. This afternoon, the situation wasn't that much better. Voters leaving the site at 3:45 p.m. said they waited 45 minutes to an hour. Many said they believed part of the reason for the long lines was that several precincts were combined into one location. "People were backed up," said Sun City resident Patty Diliberto. "The general scene was there were way too many people scheduled to vote in this place. It couldn't possibly handle all this traffic." For Diliberto, the long lines weren't her only problem. She and her husband had recently moved and had registered their new address in January. When they arrived at the polling location, her husband was able to vote, but Diliberto was told she needed a provisional ballot because her address did not match what was in the books. "There were inconsistencies there, and I can vouch for that because I was one of them," she said. Yvonne Reed, a spokeswoman for the Maricopa County Elections Department, attributed many of the glitches to voter misunderstangs. She said she had not heard of any properly registered Republican or Democrat turned away or forced to cast a provisional ballot. Some voters may believe they are registered with one of the two parties because they have voted for a Republican or Democrat in the past, Reed said. But if they are actually registered as independents or Libertarian, their names won't appear on today's roster. If they cast provisional ballots, the votes won't count. Voters who requested early ballots were also denied a regular ballot at the polls today, even if they had not returned the mail-in document. Reed said the county tracks who asks for mail-in ballots and it's that information that appears on the voter rolls on election day. Those voters cast a ballot that will be checked later against the list of people whose mail-in ballots were received. If a voter didn't mail in a ballot, the votes cast today will be counted, Reed said. "People just forget they have requested an early ballot," she said. A new program allowing voters to be added to a permanent mail-in list may have added to the confusion, as did requirements that counties consolidate voting precincts. In some cases, that meant people could note vote where they usually do and in most cases, it meant longer lines during busy hours. Voters at one polling place in Gilbert struggled with limited parking spaces, long lines and crowded polling booths. "You can see people's vote in front of you," said Kate Kresse, a registered Republican who voted for Mitt Romney. She cast her ballot at about 8:30 this morning at the Painted Trails Apartments at Pecos and Recker roads and said she worried that the long lines and lack of parking spots would discourage voters. By about noon, people were still filing in to vote, but no one was complaining. Inside the building, eight voting booths were closely arranged, and more than 50 voters were crammed into a line that ran from the parking lot to the doorway. "The booths were in there pretty tight," said Mike Michaelson of Gilbert. "In past years I have voted at the nearby elementary school where you can be in and out of their in no time. I've never seen so many people. I guess they just didn't have enough senior citizens to volunteer to run it in such a big place this year." But some in line said they didn't mind the slow lines. "I don't care how long I have to wait," said Leticia McKeen of Gilbert. "I think the vote is worth it no matter what." Arizona, with its 67 Democratic and 53 Republican delegates, pales in comparison with larger states such as California, but with the race for nominations so close, candidates are battling for every vote. This year's contest is drawing intense interest because of divided opinions over the war in Iraq, immigration policy and a stalled economy. The shortened time frame between state primaries and caucuses has led to an accelerated campaign schedule, with candidates racing through states to drum up votes. The hectic campaigning was evident in Arizona again on Monday, when Democrat Barack Obama's wife, Michelle Obama swept into Tucson for a downtown appearance, two days after Hillary Clinton's speech at the University of Arizona on Saturday. Clinton, for her part, held a national "Voices Across America" town hall on the Web that was promoted in Arizona and included a question posed by an Arizona voter. Gov. Janet Napolitano showed up at Obama's Phoenix campaign offices Monday evening to call potential voters. "It really is me, I promise," Napolitano told one caller. "It's not a robo-call or anything. It's a live person." Going into Super Tuesday, Clinton leads in Arizona polls among Democrats while John McCain enjoys a more substantial lead among Republicans. Nationally, with 1,681 Democratic delegates and 1,023 Republican delegates up for grabs today, anything could happen. "I haven't seen a tight race like this in decades," said Bruce Newman, a marketing professor at DePaul University in Chicago and editor of the Journal of Political Marketing. Phoenix pollster Earl de Berge says Arizona could prove to be a real battleground state on the Democratic side. The race is close enough, he said, that the old saying about "one vote can make the difference" is real. In Arizona, the latest poll conducted two weeks ago had the once-wide gap between Clinton and Obama narrowing. Ten percentage points separated Clinton and Obama among Arizona Democrats, according to the Behavior Research Center's statewide Rocky Mountain Poll. The poll's margin of error was plus or minus 6.5 percentage points. If conducted today, those results likely would change because John Edwards of North Carolina, who got 15 percent in the poll, has suspended his campaign. Election officials predict a high turnout. In Maricopa County, officials say turnout could be 50 percent, though they say it's somewhat difficult to predict because the state has never had a presidential-preference election with both parties participating. In past primaries, about 30 percent of one party cast ballots in the county. As of Monday, more than 70 percent of the 446,333 early ballots mailed out by the county Elections Office had been returned with votes. Among those voting is Charlotte Kelley, a 52-year-old registered nurse who lives in Fountain Hills. She said she believes more people are interested in voting in the primary because of the mounting problems facing the nation, such as the increased cost of health care and lack of access to health insurance. "Right now, the country needs a leader who will look at the economics," Kelley said. In Arizona, Democratic campaigns have been aggressive about seeking votes. In the past two weeks, Clinton and Obama have visited the Valley, along with their spouses and other supporters, including Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late President Kennedy. Republican candidates have had a lower profile, most likely because they view the state as McCain country. The Arizona senator holds a solid lead in the latest state polls: 40 percent to 23 percent for Mitt Romney of Massachusetts. Some voters were still undecided only days before the vote. Arizona State University students Emily Reynolds, 18, and Anna Bethancourt, 19, were waffling between Clinton and Obama. They researched each candidate's platforms on the Web and took online quizzes, such as www.glassbooth.org, that match up a person's views with the most likely candidate. They are looking forward to casting their first presidential votes. "It's exciting because you're not a little kid anymore," said Bethancourt, a freshman. Reporters Kendall Wright, Kerry Fehr-Snyder, Sherry Anne Rubiano and Dennis Wagner contributed to this story.

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