Voter fraud unlikely in Coconino County

  • Updated 2 hrs ago

Voting officials plan to remain vigilant to prevent intimidation or fraud at Coconino County polling places this Election Day.

“It’s not going to be happening here,” said County Recorder Patty Hansen. “We take the security of the elections very seriously.”

Hansen oversees elections in Coconino County. As in every election, she said, one election worker at each polling location will be designated as a marshal Tuesday, Nov. 8. Their job will be to keep the peace at the polls and ensure all election laws are followed.

That includes making sure there is no electioneering – actively working to secure votes for a candidate or ballot measure – within 75 feet of the entrance at any polling place. Electioneering is a Class 2 misdemeanor

“We have touched base with law enforcement,” Hansen said. “In the past, the problems we’ve had are people that are a little bit too enthusiastic about their candidates trying to get closer than the 75 feet.”

Voters are allowed to wear a shirt or button in support or opposition of a candidate or proposition when they enter their designated polling location to cast their ballots, but they cannot linger there. They also are prohibited from trying to verbally influence anyone else’s vote within 75 feet of the entrance.

This year, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has spent the final leg of his campaign recruiting supporters to become “poll watchers” to prevent his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton from rigging the election. Hansen said Coconino County’s polling place marshals will enforce the 75-foot rule for those people, too.

“The one thing I am concerned about is there’s talk of people saying they are going to go observe at the polling place,” she said. “The only observers that are allowed within those 75 feet are those officially appointed by the Democratic or Republican parties and they have to have the official appointment papers from the county parties to do that. You can’t just decide yourself, ‘I’m going to go sit at my polling place.’”

The Arizona Democratic Party sued the state’s Republican Party and the Trump campaign in federal court Monday claiming both are directing their unofficial election observers to harass and photograph people outside minority-heavy polling places to suppress Democratic voters.

Last week, the Office of the U.S. District Attorney for Arizona announced that assistant U.S. attorney Todd Allison of Phoenix will work with the U.S. Justice Department in Washington to handle complaints of election fraud and voter rights abuses as the district election officer for the District of Arizona. It also announced that the FBI will have special agents available in each field office and resident agency to take complaints of election fraud and abuses.

In the press release announcement, U.S. Attorney for Arizona John Leonardo mentions federal prohibitions against voter impersonation, buying or selling votes, altering vote tallies, ballot box stuffing, and bribery or intimidation of voters.

“For example, actions of persons designed to interrupt or intimidate voters at polling places by questioning or challenging them, or by photographing or videotaping them, under the pretext that these are actions to uncover illegal voting may violate federal voting rights law,” according to the press release.

Hansen said anyone planning to police the polls on behalf of a candidate this Election Day needs to know the laws.

“I’ve read some articles that evidently people are saying they are going to be asking voters questions and trying to get their name if they bring in more than one early ballot,” Hansen said. “You can’t interfere with people coming in and leaving the polling place, ingress and egress.”

No cameras are allowed in the polling locations or within 75 feet of the entrance, but the Arizona Legislature passed a law in 2015 legalizing ballot selfies.

“They can’t be taking pictures of other people there but our state law did change so that you can take a picture of your ballot and post it on social media,” Hansen said.

As far as voter fraud is concerned, Hansen said there are a lot of measures in place to prevent anyone from casting multiple ballots.

“A lot of people don’t realize that we check the signature on every early ballot against the signatures we have on file for our voter registration records or even past signature rosters,” Hansen said.

There are also precautions that prevent anyone who received an early ballot in the mail from voting twice.

“If we’ve mailed you an early ballot and you go to the polling place, it’s going to show (in our records) that you were mailed an early ballot,” Hansen said. “Then, you have to vote a provisional ballot, which means that your ballot is going to be kept in an envelope until we make sure that you did not mail in your early ballot.”

Early voters can call or email the County Elections Office to verify that their ballot has been received.

Trump has warned his supporters that Clinton supporters could rig the election in her favor by casting ballots for deceased people, a Class 6 felony. Hansen said that is highly unlikely.

“In Arizona, for people that have passed away, we get automatic notices from the state health department, we go through obituaries in the newspaper and a lot of times voters will just let us know,” she said. “The poll workers let us know, too, if they see names of somebody who has passed away.”

Each polling place and every place where ballots are handled must have both Democratic and Republican election workers to prevent either of the major parties from having an unfair advantage. Some locations will also have independents as poll workers.

Hansen said her office works hard to update the Coconino County voter rolls. Every two years, the County Recorder’s Office sends out mailers to all registered voters to verify their addresses.

“If it comes back that you’ve moved then we make you inactive and then if you don’t show up to vote for two years, we cancel you,” she said.

Hansen also said it would be tough to impersonate a deceased person.

“At the polling place, you’d have to have that person’s identification to be able to vote for somebody who has passed away or you’d have to be able to sign their name exactly,” she said.