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Some New Voters Suspect Registration Hanky-Panky
Published on Tuesday, October 26, 2004 by the Arizona Daily Star
Some New Voters Suspect Registration Hanky-Panky
by Tom Beal
 

Leia Maahs registered as a Democrat in June at the West Campus of Pima Community College. Her form, taken by a woman who once worked for a company under investigation in Nevada for allegedly tearing up non-Republican registrations, was never recorded.

Maahs, a 28-year-old artist who recently moved to Tucson from California, said she re-registered when she hadn't received a voter card within two months, but she worries there may be others.

"It really concerns me that a lot of young people who were registering for the first time may not know any different. These are newly registered voters who have received no information at all about what to do," Maahs said.

Dan Kempner, a 26-year-old waiter at the Grill, said he registered with the same woman, who also worked a number of locations Downtown. Like Maahs, he re-registered months later when he hadn't received his card in the mail. Kempner, who moved to Tucson last year, said he ultimately received two registration cards, with slightly different spellings of his name. He took them to the Recorder's Office and now has a single registration.

Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez said other voters who retained their registration receipts but haven't received registration cards can be added to the list.

She also said she has heard other "stories" about voter registrations that were never turned in or turned in months late, but has received no official complaints. She's not surprised that abuses would occur. There were a lot of people and groups registering voters this year, and paying for registrations is an invitation to fraud, she said.

Rodriguez said Arizona's county recorders have tried to get the Legislature to pass a law against offering "bounties" for voters, but have not had success.

Marianne Dissard of the Tucson Suffragettes, a group that encourages "virgin voters" to register and vote, said she became concerned about the woman who registered Maahs and Kempner when she encountered her Downtown and asked who she worked for.

Dissard said the woman, who identified herself as "Roxanne," was evasive but said she was being paid by a businessman in Phoenix for Republican registrations and mentioned the name "Voter Outreach."

Annette Fries, who also registered voters at Pima Community College, said Roxanne was an "independent," who, like her, was sometimes paid a bounty of up to $2.50 each for Republican registrations by Aaron "A.J." James, director of Voters Outreach of America.

That company, according to The Associated Press, is a subsidiary of Sproul & Associates, which is under investigation in Nevada and Oregon for claims that it instructed its canvassers to register only Republicans and destroy Democratic registrations.

James said those charges are "blatant lies" told by a disgruntled employee in Nevada.

Nathan Sproul, former head of Arizona's Republican Party, did not return telephone calls to his home and office seeking comment Monday, but he has previously denied any wrongdoing by Sproul & Associates.

"This is all about making accusations," Sproul told The Associated Press last week. "They allege fraud where none exists and get the media to cover it."

James, who declined to talk about the business relationship between his company and Sproul, said Roxanne had worked for Voters Outreach of America on a petition drive and that she might have been paid for Republican registrations but that she was an "independent contractor" who was reimbursed by a number of different groups.

James said there is no incentive to throw registrations out because you can always find somebody to pay for them. "There were several groups paying for Democrats," he said.

James, in fact, sold some of his non-Republican registrations to Arizona Leadership Institute, a group working in Arizona that was paid by USAction Education Fund, which said it registered more than half a million voters in 19 states this year. According to a press release, USAction is a nonpartisan effort to register "voters who have been disenfranchised or under-represented in the past - primarily unmarried women and African-American and Latino voters."

Juan Camacho, Southern Arizona director of Arizona Leadership Institute, said USAction paid his group $3.33 per registration.

Some of those, Camacho said, were non-Republican registrations that he bought from James. "A.J. was registering people in Maricopa County. He turned them in to us," he said.

Leaders of both political parties in Pima County said they had not received specific complaints about registration shenanigans. "That's my big worry, though," said Democratic County Chairman Paul Eckerstrom, "people showing up on Election Day and not being able to vote. As soon as that Nevada thing happened, I was very concerned," he said.

John Munger, Republican county chairman, said he's "heard complaints of the same thing" happening to Republican voters.

"I can't give you the names of those people but I can tell you it has happened," he said.

Munger said voters have a certain responsibility to ensure they are registered. "My advice is make sure you're registered. If you haven't received evidence of registration or haven't received your early ballot, then contact somebody."

With the exception of about 6,000 last-minute registrants who will get their cards this week, anyone who registered to vote before the Oct. 4 cutoff should have received a card and a sample ballot in the mail by now, said Rod- riguez. If you haven't, you should contact the Recorder's Office, even though it's past the deadline.

Two first-time voters also had to re-register after the forms they filled out last spring apparently disappeared.

Kevin Sorenson, an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Arizona, said he and a friend were eating lunch at a Midtown restaurant when they were approached to sign a petition by a man who also had voter registration forms. They filled them out and neither heard anything for months. Sorenson said he re-registered on campus.

© Copyright 1999-2004 AzStarNet, Arizona Daily Star

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