Ken Bennett's Explanation of Provisional Ballot Issues Disputed by Organizer
|Secretary of State Ken Bennett testifying before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee .|
Although Secretary of State Ken Bennett said one of the people involved in an effort to register 34,000 new Latino voters admitted that they were checking the permanent early-voting list box on registration forms without the voters' knowledge, the details of that meeting are in dispute.
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Bennett's spokesman Matt Roberts told New Times that this information -- which Bennett presented to a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee a few weeks ago -- came from a meeting with a few people who were concerned about the provisional-ballot issue.
Bennett has said that Latino voters did not end up casting provisional ballots at higher rates than other races, but did have that explanation for why some of those 34,000 new Latino voters may have showed up to the polls on Election Day, despite already being sent an early-voting ballot.
One of the organizers involved in the registration of those voters, and the meeting with Bennett, Unite Here! organizer Brendan Walsh, tells New Times that he doesn't recall anyone saying that they were checking the permanent early-voting list box without the new voters' knowledge.
"And that certainly was not what we trained our volunteers to do when registering voters," Walsh says in an e-mail.
Walsh said that they did discuss early-voter registration in the meeting, and said both the community organizers and Bennett agreed that education and access to information for Latino voters might help solve some of the issues voters have had in the past with the early-voting registration.
Still, he contends that no one admitted to signing up these voters to the early-voting list without their knowledge.
"So, rather than sitting down to work together to expand voting access among Latinos and low-income residents of Arizona, Bennett seems to be trying to deflect attention from the real challenge--that our system, as it exists, has problems absorbing the massive numbers of new voters that ongoing community organizing efforts like ours have helped to generate over the last three years," Walsh says.
Still, Bennett's explanation before the Senate subcommittee is consistent with what a county official told our colleague Stephen Lemons at the time, when concerns were raised over the amount of provisional ballots being cast.
"[County elections director Karen] Osborne told me that in her review of the provisional ballots, she believes that the number one reason people voted provisionally was because they were signed up for PEVL, but decided to vote at a polling place for whatever reason," Lemons wrote.
Either way, Roberts, Bennett's spokesman, said his boss is hoping to push for the legislature to make it clear that only the voter can check the permanent early-voting list box on their registration form.