Many Arizona Counties Fail To Inform Voters Of Ballot Problems

Published: Wednesday, October 31, 2018 - 1:25pm
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Most of Arizona’s 3.7 million voters elect to receive their ballot by mail. An empty ballot is sent to each voter, and the voter fills it out and drops it back in their mailbox. Simple. But the envelope doesn’t immediately get dropped into a ballot box, it has to be validated first.

That means if you mail in your ballot, someone at your county recorder’s office is looking at the signature on the outside of the green envelope and comparing it to your original signature on your voter registration form, or your DMV record. If the signatures look like they belong to the same person, then your vote is counted.

If they don’t, the vote won’t count until the ballot is validated by the voter. That process varies county by county. Some counties make more attempts than others to let the voter know there’s an issue with their ballot.

"A number of ballots are turned in on election day. They don’t necessarily identify the mismatch or have the resources to make those calls on election day," he said. "And so for ballots that are received on or near election day, my understanding is that a number of counties are not making any contact whatsoever with the voter."

Danielle Lang is an attorney with the Campaign Legal Center, a D.C.-based nonprofit that works to strengthen democratic processes. The CLC researched the signature verification process in all 15 Arizona counties, and they say only Pima County has made sure all mail-in voters are given proper notice before their ballot is rejected for a mismatched signature.

Last week, the CLC, along with other groups including the ACLU of Arizona, sent a letter to Secretary of State Michele Reagan and all county recorders. They asked that the state give more guidance on the issue. They want each county to continue reaching out to voters with problem ballots until five days after election day, so that everyone gets the same chance to resolve their ballot and have it counted.

"The voters who turn in their ballots on or near election day haven’t done anything wrong, but they’re not going to be afforded the same opportunity to confirm their signature, if some official doesn’t think their handwriting doesn’t match properly," said Lang.

Lang says they found out more than 2,600 mail-in ballots were not counted in the 2016 election in Arizona because of a signature mismatch.

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