Sadly, confusion still reigns after CBS 5's recent report on early ballots and the volunteers from different groups picking them up, in which this legal, and very common activity was labeled, wrongly, as illegal.
CBS 5 reporter Donna Rossi incorrectly paraphrased the remarks of Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell as stating that, ""it's a Class 5 felony to possess someone else's ballot."
Later, CBS 5 corrected a text version of the story to quote Purcell as stating, "Being in custody of somebody else's ballot without their permission is a Class 5 Felony."
But the correction is unlabeled and a video of the original broadcast still contains the incorrect information.
Moreover, the underlying premise of the segment is wrong: i.e., the suggestion that there is something improper or illegal about volunteers for groups like Promise Arizona in Action, the Campaign for Arizona's Future and Citizens for a Better Arizona's gathering early ballots for voters and either mailing or delivering them to Maricopa County Elections, which is part of the Recorder's office.
Rossi's report states that "no one is authorized" to pick up ballots, when, in fact, no one has to be "authorized" to do such independent, volunteer work.
The segment gave the impression that Purcell was unaware of the groups involved in such standard get-out-the-vote efforts, when, in fact, county elections is very aware that hundreds of early ballots are delivered to them at a time by various independent groups.
"Purcell says she has no idea who is out there trying to collect [ballots]," Rossi stated in the news item. "But she wants it to stop."
As I've already blogged, both the Arizona Secretary of State and elections law attorney Tom Ryan have told me that it is not illegal to pick up someone's ballot with their permission, as long as no one is misled and the ballot is turned over to the county in a timely manner.
But, weirdly, the recorder's office has been reluctant to issue a clarifying statement to the CBS 5 broadcast. And CBS 5 has not helped matters by avoiding a clear, obvious correction.
That's why I was encouraged to receive the press release below from Petra Falcon of Promise Arizona in Action, explaining how the group met on Monday with Purcell, elections director Karen Osborne and their lawyers, to present them with a petition, asking that Purcell issue a clarifying statement about the CBS 5 report.
"We're very concerned people have heard this on the news and will be hesitant to talk with our volunteers," Falcon explained.