Ballot harvesting ban won’t be enforced this year

Hank Stephenson//August 1, 2016

Ballot harvesting ban won’t be enforced this year

Hank Stephenson//August 1, 2016


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Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell at a news conference Aug. 1 where she said election officials will not enforce a ban on ballot harvesting.

Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell today said elections officials and poll workers will not be enforcing the “ballot harvesting ban” lawmakers approved this year.

“We’re not the police,” she said.

Lawmakers this year approved HB2023, which makes it a class 6 felony to pick up a friend or neighbor’s voted, signed and sealed early ballot and deliver it to elections officials.

The tactic of delivering early ballots to elections officials, which has been dubbed “ballot harvesting” by critics, has been used most successfully by Latino and Democratic get-out-the-vote groups, though Republicans have also attempted to increase turnout using the tactic.

Republican lawmakers argued that the practice is ripe for fraud, although they couldn’t prove any fraud had happened. Purcell, who is a Republican, was among the many county recorders who advocated for the ban on ballot harvesting.

Samantha Pstross, executive director of the Arizona Advocacy Network, which argued against the ballot harvesting ban, said her group knew that enforcement would be difficult, but backers of the legislation didn’t listen.

“This is one of the arguments we made when we were fighting (the bill) in committee: There are no clear guidelines for enforcement,” Pstross said.

Lawmakers first passed a ballot harvesting ban in 2013 as part of a broader elections overhaul. That law was subject to a citizens’ referendum after more than 140,000 registered voters signed onto a petition to force the law to be approved or repealed at the ballot. Republican lawmakers who approved the law repealed it the next year, fearing the referendum would drive Democratic voter turnout at the 2014 November election.

Purcell said that as far as she knows, there will be no law enforcement presence at polling places on Election Day to ensure political organizations don’t drop off hundreds of ballots at a time.

In fact, if someone does show up with a box of filled-out early ballots, Purcell promised the ballots would be counted.

“If someone brings in ballots, there’s a box there for them to put the ballots in. We’re gonna process those ballots just like we do anything else,” she said.