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Arizona voter advocacy groups concerned over primary voting issues

(Getty Images/Michael Ciaglo)

PHOENIX — Though there weren’t any widespread systematic issues during Arizona’s primary election, voter advocacy groups have voiced their concerns over logistical and technical problems that hindered some voters Tuesday.

Some voters reported having trouble simply finding voting locations in Maricopa County, according to Murphy Bannerman, deputy director of Election Protection Arizona.

“We did receive a couple of reports of people that were confused,” he told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

“They went to their traditional voting location and realized it wasn’t open. Some even went to a backup location they have used in the past, and that wasn’t open either.”

There were about 100 voting centers across metro Phoenix, including retail spaces, convention centers and malls. Maricopa County election officials said they chose these larger venues to allow for physical distancing between voters and poll workers.

But Bannerman said the change “created some confusion for voters.”

“Additionally, some of these locations weren’t properly marked so that people could easily find them,” she said.

There were also technical issues with the voter information portal where people could go to find their nearest voting location. The Arizona Secretary of State’s office told KTAR News 92.3 FM there were issues with the data not displaying on mobile devices properly.

Bannerman’s group had dozens of volunteers at voting centers helping ensure voters weren’t facing any issues. They also had a hotline in various languages for voters to call and report issues.

Murphy said their hotlines received 50 calls on Tuesday mainly from people in Maricopa County. One of those calls came from a voter who reported being turned away even after being in line before the polls closed at 7 p.m.

“That is really troubling,” she said. “We want to make sure that poll workers are fully trained and know that if a voter is in line by 7 p.m., they still can vote.”

In a call with reporters Wednesday, other voter advocacy groups said they don’t want to see a repeat of these issues for the general election in November.

“We all know that we’re going to see a much higher turnout in November, so we need to be prepared for that,” said Rosemary Avila, Arizona campaign manager for All Voting is Local. “Arizonans want every vote to count and between now and the general election, officials need to act to make sure that happens.”

Avila and others on the call said more voting locations are needed, especially in communities with large populations of Latino and Black voters. They also called for more visible signage at these locations to direct voters to the correct place to go vote.

Alexander Castillo-Nuñez with the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona said he also recommends a curbside option for people to drive up and drop off their ballots. He said it’s a great alternative “for those who may not feel safe going into a building to vote.”

“We feel that curbside voting could help in being able to provide a safe way for voters on election day,” he added.

Other advocates called for more outreach to educate voters on how to fill out and return a mail-in ballot. They foresee more voters using this method to vote in November as a way to avoid going to vote in person at the polls during the coronavirus pandemic.

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