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Fri Nov 9, 2018, 05:48 PM

Sinema versus McSally: Arizona's 2 Largest Counties Fighting Back Against Voter Suppression

From the desk of: The American M.O.B. (Majority Opinion Blowback)

"My American M.O.B. over the GOP's Russian Mob any day, any time...Let's roll!"


PHOENIX -- If you're wondering what's going on with Arizona's vote count, here's an on-the-ground synopsis of what's happening:

First and foremost, there's a battle raging to combat the state's oppressive voter suppression laws and force a complete counting of Arizona's Early Ballot votes. In particular, the issue at hand is the easily manipulated and corruptible "signature match" law that has in the past enabled Republicans to discount large swaths of Democratic, Native American, Latino, and youth voters.

On one hand, you have the state's two largest counties, Maricopa and Pima (together comprising approximately 75% of the state's population) who decided to barrel ahead in counting their votes. On the other hand, you have Republicans doing what they always do best here: Run to the courts to get a judge to intervene and stop the vote count.


Why Republicans Want the Courts to Stop Vote Counting in Arizona

Late Wednesday, four county Republican parties filed a lawsuit against all Arizona County Recorders and the Secretary of State in an effort to stop "signature verification" of Early Ballots dropped off at the polls on Election Day as well as those arriving in the days just prior to the election:

https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/elections/2018/11/07/arizona-senate-republicans-sue-county-recorders-election-martha-mcsally-kyrsten-sinema-adrian-fontes/1925719002/

UPDATE: A hearing on the matter occurred this morning in Maricopa County Superior Court. Judge Margaret R. Mahoney said in the hearing that it was too soon to require Maricopa and other counties to stop contacting voters to verify signatures on mail ballots. She also declined to order the counties to "temporarily separate mail ballots verified after Election Day":

http://ktar.com/story/2298922/maricopa-county-elections-officials-continue-to-count-ballots-amid-lawsuit/

The Republicans' increasingly feverish goal is to force continuance of a deceptive voter suppression tactic that has enabled them to remain in power several years past their time in Arizona---Early Ballots submitted near or on Election Day are NEVER COUNTED. The reason for this is because there is not enough time to complete the state-mandated signature verification by the state-mandated deadline of 7 pm Election Day, the point at which the state says counties are supposed to turn over "validated" ballot counts. These are the numbers from which races are called and voter statistics are created in Arizona.

So, how many Early Ballot votes are at stake? Well, that's the question of the day. Arizonans have never been allowed to know the true number of Early Ballots, particularly the ones not counted, and that's what the Republicans are desperate to prevent from coming out. Reportedly, 75% of the Arizona vote is cast using Early Ballots. The percentage not counted is unknown.

[In an interesting side note, a Republican troll attempted to dispute a separate Arizona story on DU by claiming that 90% of Arizona's vote is by Early Ballot. Given that all of the state's statistics, including those submitted to the federal government, show Arizona's highest Early Ballot total to be 75%, the troll was asked to cite his/her source. Amazingly, he cited himself as the source because he said he had worked at Arizona's Bureau of Elections and was in a position to know the "actual" total. When it was then pointed out that what he had just admitted to was that 15% of Arizona's actual vote was being suppressed in the Early Ballot process, he clammed up and disappeared.]


How "Early Ballot" Votes are Suppressed in Arizona

The important thing to understand about Early Ballot voting in Arizona is that this does NOT mean those ballots are necessarily cast early because voters can choose to either mail them or drop them off all the way up to and including Election Day at dropbox locations or at polling sites.

Republicans figured out years ago that the voter signature issue of Early Ballots is their "golden ticket" to suppressing the vote. First, as already noted, the time required by the very nature of the signature verification process eliminates Early Ballots cast late in the election process from ever being counted because state law crafted by Republicans prevents this.

In addition to later-arriving Early Ballots being ignored, Arizona state law also leaves it up to the counties to institute a hodge-podge of selective "signature match" voter suppression tactics in the weeks leading up to the election, including whether voters caught up in such baloney are ever notified that their votes were thrown out.

So how does this type of voter suppression work? In Arizona, early ballots have to be enclosed in the provided envelope; on the envelope is a tiny space where voters are required to sign. So, right off the bat, hapless voters who forget to sign the envelope are immediately disenfranchised and go into the "do not count" pile.

Next comes the completely manual "signature match" process completed by partisan hacks pretending to be "handwriting analysts" (even though every real handwriting analyst will tell you that you need at least 10 signature samples to even begin to make such comparisons).

The signatures on the Early Ballot envelopes are compared to the voter registration signatures on file. Remember that registration form you signed, perhaps while balancing a clipboard as you attended a community event where a get-out-the-vote drive was going on? Yeah, that signature. Does anyone remember exactly how they signed that form, which may have been years ago (a timeframe in which your signature has likely changed anyway)?

Some Arizona county officials will take the extra step of comparing the ballot envelope signature with the motor vehicle database containing signatures for driver's licenses and state-issued IDs. But, therein is another potential snag. What if your voter registration signature isn't exactly like your driver's license? What if one of them uses just your middle initial but the other uses your full middle name? This can become yet another excuse to throw out your vote if you're not registered with the "right" party from the point of view of the county worker performing the "handwriting analysis."

For an up-close look at "exact-match signature" voter suppression occurring in Arizona this election cycle, see the following story posted this past Sunday:

https://www.democraticunderground.com/100211362850

Additionally, Arizona's numerous other voter suppression laws present a labyrinth of "gotcha" provisions. For example, if you happen to find out in advance that there's a problem with your Early Ballot signature, short of marching yourself down to the County Recorder's Office to deal with it, you will likely be told to just go ahead and vote using a "Provisional Ballot." The problem with that, however, is that once you cast the Provisional Ballot after you've already cast an Early Ballot, by state law your vote can be thrown out because you voted twice!


Importance of Maricopa County Votes

Maricopa County, home of the state capital in Phoenix, contains approximately ~61% of Arizona's population. As the fourth largest county in the entire country, calling it huge is an understatement. It includes not just Phoenix, but all of the sprawling suburbs and towns out to the desert on three sides and to the low mountains at the north.

In Maricopa County alone, Democratic County Recorder Adrian Fontes, who won his position in 2016 running on a platform of fighting Arizona's notorious voter suppression, reported on Election Day that there were still 50,000 Early Ballots dropped prior to polls opening that needed to make it through the signature verification process. The day after the elections, local news stations were reporting that another 100,000-150,000 Early Ballots were submitted by voters on Election Day at the polling stations in Maricopa County.

Then, Fontes reported last night that there were 345,000 Maricopa County ballots yet to be processed. He further stated that the county's outdated vote-counting machines, of which there are too few in number for the size of the county, are only capable of processing 75,000 votes a day---and that's after the lengthy signature verification process.


Why Pima County is a Prime Target of Republicans' Legal Challenges

On October 24, prior to the election, the American Civil Liberties Union, League of United Latin American Citizens, League of Women Voters of Arizona, and several other groups wrote to Arizona's Republican Secretary of State, Michele Reagan, asking her to instruct the rest of the counties to follow Pima County's lead in contacting voters whose Early Ballots are at risk of being discarded:

https://www.azmirror.com/2018/10/24/groups-threaten-lawsuit-over-early-ballot-rejections/

Reagan rejected the letter by claiming she "doesn't have the authority to tell the counties what to do" in the lead-up to an election, suggesting this was instead an issue for the courts. No, seriously, that's what the Secretary of State, who is in charge of the elections, said.

The naming of all the state's County Recorder Offices along with the Secretary of State in the Republican lawsuit filed Wednesday is nothing more than a smokescreen to provide legal cover. The actual targets where Republicans want the vote counting to stop are Maricopa County (for the obvious reasons described above) and Pima County because Republicans are royally pissed that Pima had the audacity to kick this hornet's nest in the first place.

Pima County comprises the second largest Arizona population (approximately 14.5%). Its major city, Tucson, is a Democratic stronghold. This is the ONLY county in the entire state that makes a sincere effort to track down voters with Early Ballot signature issues, including not only illegibility and potential signature-matching problems, but also all the no-signature ballots of people who completely forget to sign in the tiny box on the outside of the Early Ballot envelope.

In addition to providing an online ballot-status site for voters, Pima County uses telephone, email, and in-person visits to notify voters of Early Ballot issues, giving them the chance to have their votes counted. More specifically, Pima is the only county that will do so even for Early Ballots cast on or near election day, thus typically holding up the calling of some races...like the Senate race between Sinema and McNasty.

Pima has been doing this for 15 years and Republicans are hopping mad about the county's continuance to do so after their party went through great pains in the Republican-controlled courts here to tighten the noose on voter suppression. According to the Arizona Republican Party, counties are only allowed to make such efforts "if time permits," in other words, by 7 pm on Election Day. This is the same legal loophole that allows Early Ballots cast on Election Day to be rejected outright because time will have run out to verify the signatures, let alone deal with any discrepancies.

However, in a bit of creative legal jujitsu, Pima County is turning one of the Republicans' own voter suppression laws against them in order to give itself the time to verify signatures of all Early Ballots cast and resolve any signature issues with voters:

Informally called the "challenge law," this is the law that allows county election officials to come in after previously cleared votes have already been counted for a race and "challenge" just enough ballots to change close elections. In the past, with Republicans in control of the Maricopa County Recorder's Office, this was used to great effect to help them win elections.

The way the challenge law works is this: If your vote is challenged, you have until 5 pm on the Monday after Election Day to jump through whatever new hoops are demanded to make your vote count---crazy stuff like having to bring in three recent utility bills to prove you live where you say you live, or additional ID to prove you are who you say you are even though the county had already supposedly verified all that through signature matching. This is why it's important for Arizona voters to continue checking their ballot status on the Secretary of State's website even in the days following an election.

In a move that angered Republicans to no end, Pima County claimed its rights under the "challenge law." But instead of using it to suppress votes, county officials challenged all the later-arriving Early Ballots, giving themselves until Monday night to finish verifying signatures and contacting voters having ballot problems, like forgotten and illegible signatures. This move, in turn, gave the Maricopa County Recorder's Office the incentive it needed to continue verifying and counting its Early Ballot votes also.

Thus, we see that the real impetus for the Republicans' hissy-fit lawsuit (and the next one that's sure to follow) is to try to yet again use Arizona's court system as a political bludgeon to beat Pima County into line for once and for all…especially now that it looks like the much more dangerous prospect, Maricopa County, has decided that it too wants to do justice by its Early Ballot voters.

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Reply Sinema versus McSally: Arizona's 2 Largest Counties Fighting Back Against Voter Suppression (Original post)
PandoraAwakened Nov 2018 OP
msongs Nov 2018 #1
PandoraAwakened Nov 2018 #2
LisaL Nov 2018 #4
Mosby Nov 2018 #3
LisaL Nov 2018 #5
Hermit-The-Prog Nov 2018 #6
PandoraAwakened Nov 2018 #7
Jersey Devil Nov 2018 #8
PandoraAwakened Nov 2018 #9

Response to PandoraAwakened (Original post)

Fri Nov 9, 2018, 06:09 PM

1. sinema's 9K ahead. stop the counting. declare her the winner. repubs should be ok

with that correct?

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Response to msongs (Reply #1)

Fri Nov 9, 2018, 06:18 PM

2. Right?

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Response to msongs (Reply #1)

Fri Nov 9, 2018, 06:52 PM

4. Exactly. They don't want to count-lets stop right now.

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Response to PandoraAwakened (Original post)

Fri Nov 9, 2018, 06:42 PM

3. as someone who worked in a business that required

Customer signatures, I can tell you that the vast majority of signatures are completely illegible. I can only imagine how much change their might be every time a person signs their name.

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Response to Mosby (Reply #3)

Fri Nov 9, 2018, 06:52 PM

5. This signature nonsense is why I don't want to use mail in ballots.

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Response to LisaL (Reply #5)

Fri Nov 9, 2018, 07:50 PM

6. this signature nonsense should be challenged on federal grounds

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Response to PandoraAwakened (Original post)

Sat Nov 10, 2018, 10:11 AM

7. UDATE: Sinema now 21,000 ahead!

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Response to PandoraAwakened (Original post)

Sat Nov 10, 2018, 11:25 AM

8. Even Cindy McCain has complained about Repub efforts not to count Az ballots

Cindy McCain, widow of the late Arizona Sen. John McCain (R), knocked her state's Republican Party on Thursday over GOP-led efforts to change the procedure by which the state counts mail-in ballots.

In a tweet, the senator's wife took aim at local GOP groups who this week filed a lawsuit to force the state to stop calling voters to verify that they had mailed in a ballot in the case of ballots where names provided by voters are not immediately clear.

"I am one of those mail in ballots. I was under the impression my vote was always counted," McCain wrote Thursday, tagging the state's local Republican Party account.
https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/415894-cindy-mccain-rips-arizona-gop-for-suing-over-counting-mail-in-ballots-i-am

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Response to Jersey Devil (Reply #8)

Sat Nov 10, 2018, 05:54 PM

9. Cindy McCain's tweet is actually part of a coordinated cover-your-ass campaign happening in AZ

Thanks for posting Jersey Devil. Do you have the link to her original post? I heard people went off in the replies on her fake "naivete."

Given the widespread voter suppression tactics that Republicans have been pushing for years here in Arizona and the circles that she runs in, there is pretty much 0% chance that she was unaware of this going on.

Word on the ground is that the tweet is part of the current Republican cover-your-ass campaign going on in Arizona to now try to somehow paint this as something the Democrats have caused, which is, of course, hilarious given which party has written all the state laws that have not only caused this fiasco but have been upheld by Arizona Republican judges.

Republicans are gunning hard right now at Fontes, Maricopa County's Democratic County Recorder, so as to set up more legal challenges with Maricopa's vote totals. This is the first time they've had to contend with a Dem county recorder in Maricopa and they are not happy about it at all.

Make no mistake about it, Cindy McCain's tweet is actually part of the first round of a campaign to oust Fontes in the next election.

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