Poll monitors set to play vital role - East Valley Tribune: News

Poll monitors set to play vital role

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Posted: Sunday, November 2, 2008 6:22 pm | Updated: 8:36 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

With a last minute surge of new voters, record foreclosures uprooting families and a historic presidential election hanging in the balance, hundreds of poll monitors will be in place Tuesday to ensure that everyone who's registered is able to cast a ballot and have it counted.

While Arizona hasn't been plagued with the kinds of problems reported elsewhere claims of registration fraud and voter intimidation, for example civil rights groups and the major political parties will be watching for potential problems, and encouraging voters to report anything that seems amiss.

County elections officials are predicting a turnout of 80 percent to 85 percent and anticipating long lines, particularly given the crush of early voting last week that had people waiting hours to cast ballots.

"They have to wait. There's no way around it," said Carmen Arias, a board member with Arizona ACORN, which has registered more than 12,000 people in Arizona and 1.3 million nationwide, most of them poor or low-income.

ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, was at the center of a national firestorm last month sparked by Republican claims of voter registration fraud. But the group has fought back with lawsuits claiming voter suppression by the GOP.

"Our voters do not have high incidence of voter participation. Laws are being made that directly affect their lives that they have no voice in," Arias said. "They've got to get out of the shadows, get into the sunlight and have their voices heard."

Nearly one-third of Maricopa County's 1.7 million voters have cast early ballots. It's too late now to send an early ballot by mail, but they may be taken to any polling place on Election Day.

The county will put more volunteers at polling places, but elections officials have conceded that long lines are inevitable given the unprecedented number of voters.

Voters are encouraged to fill out their sample ballots before they go to the polls so they can vote more quickly. Lines are expected to be longest first thing in the morning and later in the afternoon. Try going between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

This will be the first presidential election with a voter identification requirement, and civil rights groups are concerned that people could be turned away without the right ID.

"We want to instruct them that they have a right to request a provisional ballot," said Lydia Guzman, director of the civil rights group Respect Respeto.

"Our message to all of those voters: Don't let the poll workers determine whether or not you're eligible to vote," Guzman said. "We'll leave that in the hands of the county election board."

Guzman's group is part of a coalition that will have attorneys monitoring the polls and volunteers standing by a toll-free hotline to help voters.

Voters must produce one form of ID with their name, current address and photograph, or two other documents with name and current address. Those documents can include utility bills or bank statements within 90 days of the election, vehicle registration, property tax statement or voter registration card or other government-issued ID.

Voters who can't produce the required ID can cast what's called a conditional provisional ballot. They'll have until Nov. 12 to produce the required documents or their vote will not be counted.

The state's record number of foreclosures also could present problems on Election Day.

Voters must cast ballots at the polling place for which they currently live, even if they haven't updated their address on voter registration rolls. They will be required to vote a provisional ballot.

Voters who moved to a different county in the past month should vote at the polling place where they were registered as of Oct.6, which was the last day to register for the general election.

If you vote at the wrong polling place, regardless of whether you moved or not, your vote will not be counted.

Guzman said new voters should give themselves plenty of time to vote.

"We're afraid they're going to get frustrated and just go home," she said. "We're asking people to please be patient, and to report any things that may look suspicious or wrong."

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