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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 9, 2012
Executive Director Alessandra Soler, 602-650-1854 (office) or 602-301-3705 (cell) or firstname.lastname@example.org
PHOENIX—In the wake of an election that resulted in a disturbingly high number of still untallied early and provisional ballots in Arizona, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arizona today sent a letter to county and state elections officials expressing concerns that the state’s voter identification law may be resulting in a disproportionate impact on minority voters in violation of the Voting Rights Act.
“Arizona’s voters deserve an election system that works, and works equally for every eligible voter who comes to the polls,” said Alessandra Soler, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona. “At the very least, we have the right to know whether our ballots were verified and counted in a timely manner, and, if not counted, the reasons why. These questions must be answered.”
To ensure that the rights of all Arizona voters are protected, including Latino and other minority voters, the ACLU is demanding complete transparency and a timely resolution in the matter to restore confidence in the state’s election system and ensure that every eligible ballot is counted.
According to the Arizona Secretary of State, as of November 8 there were more than 630,000 ballots yet to be counted, of which more than 160,000 were provisional ballots. Of those, about 115,000 provisional ballots were cast in Maricopa County (compared to 99,826 in 2008) and 26,194 provisional ballots were cast in Pima County (compared to 17,912 in 2008).
Because some of these voters filled out provisional ballots known as “conditional provisional ballots” and are required to return to their county clerk’s office by November 14th with the proper ID for their votes to count, timely information is absolutely critical. Under state law, counties have 10 calendar days to verify and process all early and provisional ballots.
Several advocacy groups that registered tens of thousands of Latino voters in the past year have raised questions about why these provisional ballots were issued. These groups and others are seeking information on where such ballots were cast and if there has been a disproportionate impact on Latino voters, many of whom were casting ballots for the first time.
Preliminary figures released by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials show that about 300,000 Latinos voted in Arizona this year, up from about 291,000 in 2008. And local election observers estimate that number is likely to increase as early and provisional ballots are counted.
“The increase in the number of provisional ballots, especially if they were issued predominantly in precincts with high numbers of minority voters, may indicate a violation of the Voting Rights Act,” added Soler.
Voters may be required to cast a provisional ballot for a number of reasons, including if their names did not appear on the voter rolls or if they did not show the necessary identification under Proposition 200, Arizona’s onerous and complicated voter ID law.
Although the voter ID provision of the law has been upheld, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear a challenge to Proposition 200’s registration requirement early next year.
For several years, the ACLU-AZ has voiced concerns about the provisional ballot process. A 2010 ACLU-AZ report, Uncounted Votes, which compiled data on provisional balloting in the 2008 election from five counties, found that thousands of provisional ballots were rejected simply because they were cast in the wrong precinct, even though voters were legally registered.
“Arizona should not disenfranchise eligible voters because of administrative technicalities or inefficient practices, and we must ensure that no community is disproportionately impacted” added Soler.
Click here to read the ACLU-AZ report on the use of provisional ballots in Arizona in 2008.
Click here for a copy of the ACLU-AZ letter to Arizona State election officials.