Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell issued a clarifying statement Tuesday regarding an erroneous report on early ballots by CBS 5/KPHO's Donna Rossi last week.
That report misquoted Purcell as saying that having an early ballot in one's possession is a Class 5 felony.
After I wrote a blog item pointing out that both the Arizona Secretary of State and Arizona elections law expert Tom Ryan confirmed that this was in error, Channel 5 altered the text of its report online.
But the station did not label it as a correction, did not correct the video of the original report, and did not run an on-air correction.
Groups such as Promise Arizona in Action and Citizens for a Better Arizona, both of which are picking up early ballots with voter-approval and delivering or mailing them to the county, asked Purcell to alert the media to the misinformation.
See also: -Helen Purcell Urged to End Confusion Over CBS 5 Early Ballot Report -CBS 5 Report Regarding Early Ballots Incorrect, Sets Off Firestorm (w/Update) -Maricopa County Elections Office Had More Materials With Wrong Election Date in Spanish, So It Got a Calendar -Maricopa County Elections Department Prints Wrong Date in Spanish on a Few Documents; Voter-Suppression Theories Follow
To the credit of her and her office, Purcell has now done that, in a press release that reads, in part:
"I never said that it is illegal, much less a Class 5 felony, to collect, possess and deliver ballots of voters. Indeed, this office has worked cooperatively with a host of organizations, of all parties and persuasions, to assist voters get their ballots to the polls. We applaud the work of Promise Arizona and other groups in their efforts to register new qualified voters and have their ballots counted."
However, Purcell remains concerned with reports that some individuals are trying to pass themselves off as county workers.
"The County Recorder's Office is not sending out workers to collect ballots," she states in the release. "It is wrong, illegal, a Class 5 felony, to misrepresent yourself as an elections official if you are not. We question why anyone would do that - especially as an attempt to undermine the commendable get-out-the-vote efforts of political parties and community activist groups."
Regarding recent county errors in Spanish-language voting materials, Purcell said her office will be "launching a very aggressive Spanish language publicity campaign" so that "everyone knows that the election will be held on Tuesday, November 6. Martes, 6 de noviembre."
Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, while regretting the initial errors by county elections, applauded Purcell's move.
"I think it is very important that Mrs. Purcell is going to take the unprecedented step of taking out ads to communicate the correct date to our Spanish speaking citizens," Wilcox said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. "I commend her efforts to fix these errors."
However, CBS 5's mistake planted an evil seed in the fertile soil of Chad Willems' gray matter. The Arizona Capitol Times has reported that Willems, Arpaio's campaign manager and chief bag-carrier, admitted to creating a robocall based on the erroneous reporting of Rossi.
"It sort of made it sound, to me, like if you carry a ballot for someone, that's a felony," Willems told the CapTimes of the CBS 5 segment.
Willems knows better, of course, but he's not one to let a chance to suppress the Latino vote slip through his hands. After all, the fewer Hispanics who cast ballots in Maricopa County, the better Arpaio's chances of croaking in office of old age.
Arpaio's portly pimp told the CapTimes that Purcell contacted him about the robocall, but that it was too late, the robocall campaign had ended. Damage done.
What about KPHO? Well, the CapTimes says the station is standing by Rossi's initial report.
"Leona Wood, an assistant news director at KPHO, said she has full confidence in her reporter's story and that any claims of misinformation spring from taking isolated bits of the story out of context," concludes the story.
I phoned Wood and e-mailed her, seeking comment, but she has not returned my call.
As a reporter, I've always been able to rely on county elections for accurate information, particularly in my dealings with Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne.
So the statement from Purcell and the Spanish-language ad campaign she promises are welcome developments. I, too, commend her and her office for taking this needed action.
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