Tue, July 23

How did Yavapai fare in election process?

The biggest complaint he heard from Yavapai County voters on March 22 was the windy weather, reported Yavapai County Supervisor Chip Davis. The supervisors met briefly Wednesday, March 30, to canvass the results of the Presidential Preference Election.

Elections Director Lynn Constabile said Yavapai County led the state with nearly 69 percent of eligible voters turning out, as compared to 52 percent statewide. For the most part, everything went smoothly at the polling places. The exception was Trinity Presbyterian Church on Park Avenue where a mechanical failure caused a delay of less than 15 minutes.

Constabile said workers at the church voting center offered voters three choices: wait until the repair was completed, come back later, or visit another vote center. The closest vote center was five minutes away at the County Administration building on Fair Street, she said.

Nevertheless, one voter was aggravated enough to email the Board of Supervisors just before the polls closed on Election Day. Karen Hudson said she tried to vote just before 7 a.m. on her way to work and discovered she couldn't due to the technical difficulties. She felt county officials were not well prepared and the failure was "absolutely unacceptable."

"I was just appalled. It seemed to me that it was not something that had just happened. They need to work through all the technical difficulties before we get to the polling places," she said.

Constabile said all equipment is tested multiple times before Election Day, and sometimes circumstances beyond the election department's control happen. They gave voters a list of other vote centers to visit if they chose to.

"We are one of the few counties in the nation that do not assign polling locations. Our vote centers give the option to cast your ballot in any of our 29 locations, rather than having no option other than to wait," Constabile wrote in a response letter to Hudson.

At one Verde Valley voting center, a gentleman called to complain about the "chaotic" conditions. When he learned that three election workers failed to show up, he decided to become part of the solution, Constabile said, and has signed up for training to help in the next election.

John Orr has worked in the past four elections in Chino Valley. He said there were no backup lines like Maricopa County experienced.

"But we did have a lot of disgruntled voters," he said, more than any other election he's worked. The election system appeared to have missing or incorrect information on voters even though they had voted in the 2012 election or had not changed addresses.

Orr said it took longer for those voters to fill out the information to get a provisional ballot than those not needing one, although it took only 10-12 minutes at most to get through the process.

Voters can use one of four methods to cast their ballots. They can appear on Election Day at a voting center, they can vote in person at the County Administration building up to 27 days prior to and including Election Day, they can request a one-time early mail-in ballot, or they can request to be put on the permanent early voter list for mail-in ballot.

Yavapai County voters take advantage of the early mail-in ballot in increasing numbers - 82 percent voted in this manner for the PPE, up from 78 percent in 2012 and 21 percent in 2008.

Out of the 46,645 early ballots cast, election officials rejected 300, or .64 percent, mostly because the signatures differed from the ones on file. About 71 could not be counted because there was no signature. Officials also received six empty envelopes and found that five people voted twice.

At the polls, officials gave out 3,350 provisional ballots of which 61 percent, or 2,072 ballots, were rejected. This high percentage occurs during the PPE because, despite the attempts at educating voters prior to the election, some people remain confused about the need to register as Democrat, Republican or Green Party to be eligible to vote. Just over 1,914 provisional ballots were rejected because the voters were the wrong party; 95 were not registered; 26 already sent in an early ballot; 19 were incomplete or unsigned; six envelopes arrived empty; five registered too late; five were out of jurisdiction; and two did not provide proper identification.

"A provisional ballot is like a last chance to vote. If you come in to a voting center and say you are eligible to vote, by law we have to provide you a ballot, even if none of the information matches," said Leslie Hoffman, Yavapai County recorder.

Hoffman and Constabile are enthusiastic defenders of citizens' right to vote. They make sure anyone who wants to vote has the opportunity to do so. They checked more than 20 forms submitted by the Motor Vehicles Department (MVD) against the originals given to the MVD clerk to make sure they were entered correctly into the system - they were. When a person fills in a new or renewed driver's license form and lists "none" for party affiliation, they cannot vote in a PPE. Left blank, it will not change the status of party affiliation.

Two bipartisan workers from the elections department visit most of the nursing homes and assisted living facilities at least twice a year to help residents with registration and with filling out ballots. If ballots appear with "assisted" on it, an election official will call to speak to each voter to confirm their understanding of the ballot.

"As much as we want every vote to count, we make sure it's the registrant's ballot," Hoffman said. Additional workers visit the hospitals on Election Day.

A full year of planning goes into any election. Constabile said she expected somewhere around 50 percent voter turnout based on 56 percent and 51 percent in two previous elections.

"Sixty-nine percent was beyond my wildest dream. You can't really judge who's going to show up," she said.