Tens of thousands of ballots cast in Arizona’s 2012 election were rejected by elections officials, indicating continued communication and voter education problems in the state, according to an analysis by the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting. Nearly 46,000 of the more than 2.3 million ballots cast in Arizona’s 2012 election – or about 2 percent – were rejected. That rate is down from 2.2 percent in 2008, when Arizona led the nation in rejected provisional ballots. The analysis was based on a review of rejected ballots and interviews with experts and legislators. The rejected votes consist of early voting or provisional ballots in which voters went through the voting process but later had their ballots thrown out after review by elections officials. The most common reasons were that voters weren’t registered in time for the election, voted in the wrong precincts or didn’t sign their ballots. Early votes and absentee ballots are cast when a voter is on the permanent early voting list or lives outside the state or country during election cycles. Provisional ballots are cast when voters are not listed on a jurisdiction’s voter roll or registration records, or if they received an early ballot.
Election experts say rejected ballot rates – and the reasons for rejection – can point to either poor voter education about Arizona’s election process or inefficiencies in the state’s election administration efforts.
(Illustration by the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting. Click to enlarge.)
“I know that [Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett] wants to identify areas that we can do better and will do better,” said Matt Roberts, spokesman for the Arizona Secretary of State’s office. “And that’s what rejected ballots can tell us.”
Of the 33,000 provisional ballots that were rejected in 2012, 38 percent were because the voter wasn’t registered in the state and 33 percent because the voter submitted a ballot in the wrong precinct.
Election officials said voters who weren’t registered might have missed the state’s registration cut-off date, which was 29 days before Election Day. Voters who register after that date are not eligible to vote in that election.
“If someone thinks that they’re registered and isn’t, then that could be an element of voter education that we need to improve,” Roberts said.