A couple days ago, we brought you the story of a completely fabricated wingnut outrage over a Latino man supposedly “caught” on video as he “stuffed a ballot box” in Arizona’s August primary. Except he wasn’t frauding anything at all.
The man, Ben Marin (not “Marine” as a couple of other sites have spelled it), was delivering early ballots to the Maricopa County Elections Department on behalf of Citizens for a Better Arizona (CBA). Arizona election law allows people to have anyone they want return their early ballots, and as we noted, Maricopa County Republican Party chair A.J. LaFaro, who pushed this “ballot stuffing” story into public attention, knows damned well this routine practice is perfectly legal.
LaFaro was among those pushing a since-repealed law that briefly made it illegal for anyone but the absentee voter to turn in their own early ballot. Since we ran the story Wednesday morning, there have been a few additional developments. Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell has confirmed that there’s nothing illegal or even suspicious about a get-out-the-vote worker dropping off ballots.
“If an individual wants to give somebody their ballot, their voted ballot, that’s up to them,” she said. “There’s no law that says they can’t do that.” She also emphasized that the signature on each ballot is verified. If the wrong signature is on the envelope, the ballot gets tossed.
After the non-fraud story broke, several groups that help collect early ballots rallied outside the Maricopa County Elections office to defend the practice and to emphasize that the collected ballots are all really, truly filed in by individual voters:
Ramiro Luna, Citizens for a Better Arizona field director, said canvassers encourage voters to participate. But they are trained not to touch a ballot or mark it in any way, he said.
“The ballot is something we keep as sacred,” he said. “All we are doing is providing a service to make sure the ballot is counted and is turned in on time.”
Even LaFaro acknowledged that the Republican Party has sent GOTV canvassers to neighborhoods, but he claimed “it was on a much smaller scale compared with Democratic-leaning groups,” so the fact that his party’s efforts are less successful means Democrats are breaking the law, while Republicans are simply encouraging participation in our democratic process. LaFaro also insisted he wasn’t reassured that county election workers verify signatures on ballots.
“From the time those ballots are mailed to the time they’re turned back in, lots of things can happen,” he said. You know. Things.
The League of Women Voters of Arizona, in conjunction with two other groups, issued a statement debunking the idea that the video showed fraudulent activity. Sam Wercinski, executive director of the Arizona Advocacy Network, said that the date of the video is especially significant:
It is important to note that the video was taken on Monday, August 25, the day before the primary election. That is three days after election officials recommend mailing early ballots. This young volunteer from Citizens for a Better Arizona was not breaking any laws when he was confronted and harassed by a person in the elections sitting area. The young volunteer, in fact, should be applauded for helping voters get their ballots to elections officials on time rather than mail them after the deadline and arrive too late to be counted.
Wercinski pointed out that in the same primary election, some 7,000 ballots arrived in the mail after the election, and therefore weren’t counted. “These groups should be congratulated for assisting voters and election officials in getting ballots returned, securely and on time,” Wercinski said.
League of Women Voters of Arizona president Robyn Prud’homme-Bauer said that “having the ability for organizations to assist voters in getting their completed early ballots to the ballot box is important to encouraging voters to vote.” She added, “This is not different than any other get-out-the-vote campaign that assists voters getting to polling places on election day.” Well, maybe it is like driving voters to the polls, but that doesn’t make it any better, you silly pro-voting lady. After all, between a volunteer’s picking up a voter and letting them out at the polls, you know what could happen? That’s right: lots of Things!
Thursday night, Mitt Romney made an appearance in Mesa, Arizona, to campaign for Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Ducey. A graphic on a couple of conservative blogs, reproduced up top, urged attendees to “Bring your Early Ballots!” so GOP get-out-the-vote volunteers could collect them and get them to the county elections office. Our favorite little irony: On one rightwing blog, “Sonoran Alliance,” the Romney event notice, complete with invitation to bring those early ballots, appeared immediately above a piece complaining that “Ballot Stuffing is Legal in Arizona.”
The piece acknowledges that Arizona law allows groups to turn in ballots, but goes on to allege — with no evidence, of course — that CBA and other groups go door-to-door collecting “virgin ballots” in exchange for “an item of value and a promise of political favorism,” and then complete the ballots however they want. Sure, the verification of signatures on early ballot envelopes should make that impossible, but it’s a great voter-fraud horror story:
With a fresh harvest of unmarked early ballots, community organizers and union members will gather in private where they fill out the ballots in mass identical fashion, seal them, scribble a signature on to the envelope and pack a crate ready for delivery to the nearest early voting center.
And then they presumably eat some babies and get gay-married, too. But here’s the best line in the piece:
Republicans don’t vote this way because many see the privacy and individuality of their ballot as a sacred right rather than an exercise in mass political production.No mass political productions for Republicans. Just good old one-on-one meeting the candidates at the Mesa Convention Center, and remember to BRING YOUR EARLY BALLOTS! What we wouldn’t give to be hanging out at the Maricopa County Elections Department with a video camera when those ballots are delivered.