A YouTube video with more than 400,000 views purporting to show "ballot box stuffing" in Arizona actually shows a completely legal practice.
A.J. LaFaro, the chairman of the Maricopa County GOP, has been drumming up controversy by implying he witnessed voter fraud when an activist for the group Citizens for a Better Arizona dropped off some voters' completed ballots at the Maricopa County elections headquarters, which has some right-wing blogs going nuts.
"I believe it's inconceivable, unacceptable and should be illegal for groups to collect hundreds, if not thousands, of voter's ballots and return them to the elections offices or polling locations," LaFaro writes. "And let's not forget the "ballot parties" that occur where people gather en masse and give their unvoted ballots to operatives of organizations like Citizens for a Better Arizona so they can not only collect them but vote them illegally. America used to be a nation of laws where one person had one vote. I'm sad to say not anymore."
In reality, there was nothing wrong with what Citizens for a Better Arizona is doing by collecting early-voting ballots from voters who agree to have their completed ballot hand-delivered to elections officials to make sure it's counted.
In fact, New Times has reported on Citizens for a Better Arizona delivering these ballots before. In 2012, CBA dropped off a couple hundred early ballots amid the successful recall of then-Senate President Russell Pearce, a Republican. You can see why LaFaro may not like the practice.
However, amid allegations of voter fraud, Citizens for a Better Arizona and other Latino get out the vote groups assembled outside the Maricopa County Elections headquarters in Phoenix yesterday to explain themselves and answer any questions the media might have.
"Instead of being praised, we're being addressed in a very negative manner," said CBA organizer Ramiro Luna. "Behind me are my canvassers. these are the heroes of the community, who go in day in and day out, canvassing under the Arizona heat, walking the pavement, encouraging the voters to come out and participate in their civic duty to vote, but instead of being praised, the extreme right has criminalized our canvassers."
Raquel Teran, of the group Mi Familia Vota, pointed out that 7,000 votes from voters on the early-voting list weren't counted last election because they were mailed late. Those are the votes that these groups are delivering to elections officials.
The 2014 State of Arizona Elections Procedures Manual from the Secretary of State's Office outlines this practice as something that's clearly acceptable (emphasis added):
Early Voter's Responsibilities
After voting the early ballot in accordance with the instructions provided by the County Recorder, the voter must:
After they have securely sealed the voted ballot inside the early ballot return envelope, voters may voluntarily give their voted early ballot to a person of their choice for delivery to the Recorder or a polling place. The designated person shall not tamper with the envelope or the ballot and shall not deliberately fail to deliver the ballot to the Recorder or a polling place within the voter's county of residence.
- complete and sign the affidavit,
- place the voted ballot in the envelope provided for that purpose,
- securely seal it,
- deliver or mail the envelope to the appropriate County Recorder or officer in charge of elections, or
- deposit it at any polling place within the county of residence no later than 7:00 p.m. on election day, in order to be counted as valid.
Such delivery is also outlined in Arizona law.
Based on LaFaro's explanation, it appears that he has a bone to pick over the repeal of House Bill 2305, a package of changes to Arizona's elections laws that criminalized dropping off someone else's ballot. It also made it easier for county officials to remove voters from the permanent early-voting list, and made it much harder for third-party candidates to make it onto ballots, among other things.
"The Secretary of State, the Counties and the State Legislature passed some great election laws in 2013 that resulted in HB-2305," LaFaro writes. "I know because I testified at several of the hearings. What did the progressive socialists and militant groups cry after the laws were passed? Suppression and disenfranchisement of the Hispanic and minority voters et. al. so they could force the repeal HB-2305 and continue their voter fraud activities."
In fact, these changes to election law caused so much outrage that voter-outreach and voter-rights groups from across the political spectrum were easily able to collect enough signatures to put the law on the ballot, where it very likely could have been overturned by the voters. After the groups collected the needed signatures, Republican lawmakers voted to overturn the law they had just passed the year before.
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