Valley sees unprecedented voter turnout - East Valley Tribune: News

Valley sees unprecedented voter turnout

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Posted: Tuesday, November 4, 2008 7:45 am | Updated: 11:56 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Valley voters awoke before dawn and stayed in line long after dark to cast ballots Tuesday in the most historic election most of them had ever seen, testing the limits of poll workers with an unprecedented turnout and piles of provisional ballots still to be counted.

VIDEO: E.V. voters talk about lines

Valley voters awoke before dawn and stayed in line long after dark to cast ballots Tuesday in the most historic election most of them had ever seen, testing the limits of poll workers with an unprecedented turnout and piles of provisional ballots still to be counted.

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 Early voters, who mailed their ballots or turned them in at the polls, helped ease the lines and may account for nearly half of all ballots cast. County elections officials, who registered a surge of new voters this year, projected a turnout of 80 to 85 percent.

“There have been no big surprises and, thank God, no disasters,” said Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne. “I think a lot of our early ballots gave a lot of relief to the polls.”

Osborne said she won’t know until today how may ballots remain to be counted. They include the early ballots dropped off Tuesday and provisional ballots cast by voters who did not have the required ID or whose names or addresses didn’t match the voter rolls.

In 2006, more than 250,000 votes remained uncounted the next day, leaving tight legislative races, a U.S. House seat and two ballot propositions hanging in the balance.

Hundreds of poll monitors fanned out to help voters Tuesday, and several reported problems with voters not having the required ID or casting provisional ballots that weren’t properly marked.

Newly registered students at Arizona State University appeared to be hardest hit. Without documents to show their current address, they had to cast a conditional provisional ballot and will have to return by next Wednesday with proper ID.

“They’re handing out a lot of provisional ballots,” said Linda Brown, executive director of the Arizona Advocacy Network, which trained 130 volunteers who joined about 100 attorneys at the polls as part of Election Protection.

“We believe that it’s just emblematic of a system that needs to be seriously redesigned,” Brown said. “I’m not saying that anybody is doing anything nefarious here. It’s just a poor design that causes disenfranchisement inadvertently.”

Some voters went to the wrong polling places. If they cast ballots there, they won’t be counted.

Olena Kalayda, 43, of Scottsdale, waited for more than an hour in line before being directed to Plaza Healthcare. The naturalized citizen from Ukraine said she had trouble reading a polling place map.

Kalayda, who named the economy and an end to the war as her top issues, said that in her former country, “they do what they want no matter how people vote. That’s why I’m here. The laws are working here.”

A line formed at 5 a.m. at Scottsdale United Presbyterian Church, 3421 N. Hayden Road. By late morning, only about 15 people waited to vote.

At Mesa’s Victory Lutheran Church, the line “was out to the corner and around” by 5:30 a.m., said polling inspector Bonita Bazzoli.

“Somewhere around 9 a.m., we began to see daylight,” she said.

The small parking lot at the Gilbert Historical Museum was packed at 9:30 a.m., with more voters cramming a vacant lot across the street and an adjacent parking lot.

As the left the Church of the Valley in northeast Phoenix, Camille and Wylie Swanson said they enjoyed their first early voting experience.

“We dropped off our early ballots,” Camille said. “We could look stuff up on the Internet. We spent a lot of time on this.”

Throughout the afternoon, dozens of voters waited in a line that ran nearly to the street outside City in Desert Metro-Church in Tempe, which served as a polling place for thousands of Arizona State University students. Many of them were required to use provional ballots.

Andrew Rigazio, co-chair of the Arizona Student Vote Coalition and a business major at ASU, said addresses on students’ voter registrations did not match the addresses on their drivers licenses.

“Students move around a lot and students move from out-of-state,” Rigazio said. “These are people where there is no way to prove their address.”

State law requires that voters show official photo identification, like a driver license, that lists their current address. In lieu of that, voters can bring two documents, such as utility bills or bank statements, with their name and currnet address.

That’s a problem for students living in dorms, Rigazio said.

Sarah Leick, an ASU design major, said she registered using her dorm address though her driver license lists her parents’ Gilbert home address. Regardless, poll workers did not force her to use a provisional ballot.

“I thought I would be, but no,” Leick said. “It was fine.”

By the end of the evening, Democratic Party volunteers were ready to party, but sad to say good-bye.

“We had some dedicated volunteers and supporters,” said Beverly Fox-Miller, chair of the Greater Easter Maricopa Democrats, better known as the GEM Dems.

“I’m glad it’s over because we need the administration to change,” she said. “But I hate to see it end.”

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