At least two official documents created by the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office misinformed Spanish-speaking voters in Arizona of the wrong election day and activists worry that the error could suppress Latino voter turnout on Nov. 6.
ABC’s Phoenix affiliate reported last week that a document distributed with voter IDs told Spanish-speaking voters to vote on Nov. 8, but listed the correct Nov. 6 election date in English. And then on Monday, bookmarks distributed by the Recorder’s Office were discovered to have a similar problem: an incorrect Nov. 8 election date was given in Spanish, while English-language voters were correctly informed that Nov. 6 was election day.
The Recorder’s Office has said that only 50 voters received bad information along with voter ID cards and around 2,000 of the erroneous bookmarks were printed.
“We’re always very good about checking and double-checking things, and we just didn’t do that enough this time,” Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell insisted on Tuesday. “I certainly would never, ever want to suppress anybody from voting, including Hispanics.”
The Campaign for Arizona’s Future, an organization dedicating to removing Sheriff Joe Arpaio from office and increasing voter turnout, told Raw Story that Purcell, who is a Republican, needed to get the correct voting date out to the Spanish-speaking voters who were misinformed.
“The county recorder has not been very forthcoming with that,” spokesperson Daria Ovide explained. “The whole thing is like Bizarro World. … This is the county recorder, she is an elected official and as I understand it, her responsibility is to manage the elections process in the county.”
By late Wednesday the Recorder’s Office had posted the election date in large red letters in both English and Spanish on it’s website, but Ovide recommended displaying posters at locations where voters were misinformed. She also suggested that Purcell could do interviews with local media outlets to get the word out.
“As of this morning, the county was not prepared to do that,” Ovide said. “To me, it seems a no-brainer that if there are misprints — regardless of what language it’s in — that you issue a clarification.”
To make matters worse, Phoenix’s CBS affiliate reportedly misquoted Purcell to say that election workers were committing a Class 5 Felony if they mailed ballots for voters. The station later corrected the language to state, “Being in custody of somebody else’s ballot without their permission is a Class 5 Felony.”
Ovide said that it was a common practice for activists to mail ballots for Spanish-speaking voters or other groups.
“Our volunteers are all high school students,” she pointed out. “And they’re extraordinary, they’ve register over 34,000 voters. They’re unbelievable, but they’re high school students. If somebody at the door says, ‘Oh, I heard on the news that if somebody asks for my ballot or says they will deliver it for me that I should call the police.’ We’ve had police called on our volunteers and, to me, that’s really inappropriate.”
Watch this video from ABC 15, broadcast Oct. 23, 2012.
Watch this video from CBS 5, broadcast Oct. 22, 2012.